Wednesday 19 January
The New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) has cancelled the Ending HIV Big Gay Out, scheduled to take place on 13 February 2022 in Auckland. We note the significant public health risk associated with proceeding given the imminent threat of a community omicron outbreak as their key rationale.
Our Chief Executive Dr Jason Myers says the decision has been made with the safety of the communities the organisation serves at its core.
“Above all, NZAF is a public health organisation, and we exist to promote and preserve the public health of our communities and the Ending HIV Big Gay Out shares these same goals.
“It has simply become untenable to reconcile delivery of the event with Aotearoa on the precipice of, what experts predict to be, a very difficult time for New Zealanders and our public health system.”
We note the level of disruption caused overseas by the rapidly spreading omicron variant and cited the role that large and outdoor gatherings have played in places such as Victoria as another factor sitting behind this pre-emptive decision. Just this week, the Prime Minister said that we should assume that omicron is in the community “at any time” and that people should “prepare now”.
The Ending HIV Big Gay Out is one of the larger free annual summer events and attracts 15,000 to 20,000 people. Our duty of care to these thousands of attendees means this decision needed to be made.
“This event attracts families with small children and a concerted effort had been made this year to ensure Māori and Pasifika communities feel this event is their space too. There was little room to justify proceeding when we placed equity at the heart of this decision” says Myers.
“The team is of course extremely disappointed. The Ending HIV Big Gay Out takes considerable capacity to deliver, with many people involved in putting on an incredible event each year. I acknowledge the disappointment that will be felt by all those involved as well as all those that were planning to attend. I feel this personally.”
The last time the event was cancelled was in 2018 due to extreme adverse weather on the day.