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Saturday 27 May 2017

Retriring researcher slams Govt. over HIV

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 5th May 2017

One of the most respected and successful figures in the history of New Zealand's until now successful fight against the HIV epidemic has criticised the government for its waning commitment to HIV prevention work.

Tony Hughes

At his formal farewell from the NZ AIDS Foundation after thirty two years of guiding the organisation's work, including achieving one of the lowest national HIV prevalence levels in the world, researcher and strategist Tony Hughes says the public and especially the government have in recent years lost interest in HIV and the threat it faces to public and personal health.

Government funding for the NZAF's work has effectively been dropping over the past six years while the numbers of new diagnoses have inexorably climbed to the highest level ever and spending on HIV medications has exceeded $32 million per year and continues to climb.

"Prevention work is now harder than ever before," Hughes says. "We must get over the sense that HIV is a problem that is controlled." Changes in society and sexual habits are the drivers of HIV's resurgence amongst gay and bisexual men, Hughes says. "We must find ways to address these major obstacles.

"Over the past 32 years I have loved working in the NZAF, helping to meet one of the greatest challenges to public health this country has ever see," Hughes says. "But public health and especially HIV are not a high enough priority for this government."

The NZAF and other public health figures have for several yewars criticised the government for not increasing funding for HIV prevention in the face of a surge in new diagnoses and escalating treatment costs.

Questions Daily News put to Minister of Health Jonathan Colman on this subject over a month ago and cc'd to the Prime Minister's office have not been answered.

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