The AIDS Foundation has looked into concerns that the new Mr Gay
New Zealand, an NZAF employee, has an active profile on a barebacking
website and appears satisfied that his conduct fits with the HIV
prevention strategies now available.
Charlie Tredway, who is openly HIV-positive, won the contest on Sunday afternoon at the Big Gay Out. Soon afterwards a number of GayNZ.com readers voiced concern that his barebacking activities are not consistent with his working as an NZAF community engagement staffer or representing the NZ gay community.
Addressing an HIV conference last year Tredway spoke of
contracting HIV overseas from a person who did not let on he had the
virus. He said he had had a difficult time health-wise until coming
to New Zealand where a different lifestyle had enabled him to
maintain good health and adherence to anti-retroviral medications.
One of several techniques to lessen chances of HIV transmission is to identify as soon as possible people with HIV and get them onto HIV-suppressing anti-retroviral pills. Proper use of these medications ensures an infected person's viral load is lowered to a point where there is a statistically negligible chance of them passing on the virus. The NZAF has struggled to convince government drug buying agency Pharmac of the advantages of funding newly-diagnosed people onto medications immediately they are diagnosed.
â€śThe NZAFâ€™s strategy for preventing HIV encompasses condoms, frequent testing, early treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),â€ť says the Foundation's executive director Jason Myers. â€śThis strategy has a place for people living with HIV, whether they use condoms consistently or not, to contribute to the reduction of new HIV transmissions in New Zealand. He says the NZAF was not aware of Tredway's involvement through any barebacking websites until it was drawn to their attention this morning.
â€śOur new strategy is designed to engage those who struggle with consistent condom use and educate about these new tools. Other STIs notwithstanding, for our goal of ending the transmission of HIV, we do not see consensual condom-less sex between people living with HIV as problematic.â€ť
Prevention strategies for reducing HIV infections have changed considerably in New Zealand over the past two years. The NZAF, traditionally very cautious in its approach to safe-sex promotion, has progressively embraced the use of techniques other than condoms as emerging scientific data has supported them.
The Foundation used the weekend's Big Gay Out to launch its new Ending HIV campaign which relies on endorsing a variety of methods of reducing the chances of HIV being passed from person to person. In New Zealand most of those living with HIV are gay and bisexual men who contracted it through anal sex.