The overwhelming majority of people living with HIV are gay and bisexual men. Improvements in medication in recent years have lowered the death toll resulting from HIV infection to a negligible level but more and more men are now living with HIV, which is still a debilitating illness.
The two main sources of financial support for men facing spiraling medical costs when their ability to earn a reasonable income is often severely reduced are the Wellness Fund and Positive Health, both schemes administered by HIV-positive peer support group Body Positive.
Today's collection is organised by the NZ AIDS Foundation and is the latest in a series of annual World AIDS Day collections dating back to the start of the epidemic in the mid-1980s. With the lower profile of HIV in recent years the amount collected each year has lessened. After deduction of organising charges, never more than $10,000, the proceeds are now split between the NZAF's support services and the Wellness Fund - which used to get all proceeds.
Last year just $15,000 each went to the NZAF and the Wellness Fund. The NZAF uses its share to bolster the services and resources available through its counseling and support teams. The Wellness Fund provides financial support of last resort, generally to those struggling on sickness benefits and faced with unexpected financial burdens. Last year's collection proceeds received by the Fund were cut out in just three months.
Collectors will be shaking their buckets today in Auckland, Hamilton, Gisborne, Wellington and Christchurch. For those unable to put a few dollars into a collector's bucket an online collection has been set up at gettingtozero.org.nz People can sign up on that site to be an online collector or to make a donation.