For the second year, the PuÄwai Festival will once again help to reduce the stigma of HIV through performance, laughter and song. From November 28 through to December 3, a range of events include a spoken word evening, comedy and The Upside Down: Cabaret. All money raised will go towards the HIV Wellness Fund.
This year, the NZAF is raising awareness of the situation for HIV positive people in New Zealand who it says are being denied medicine that will improve their health and reduce new infections. The organisation is calling upon New Zealanders to get behind a campaign urging Pharmac to remove the threshold for access to treatment.
Currently, people newly diagnosed HIV positive cannot access medication until their immune system is in danger of being overwhelmed by the virus. This means their CD4 count - an indication of the damage done to an immune system by HIV - must drop below 500. This number was previously at 350, but was raised in 2014, with Pharmac agreeing in principle to completely remove the barrier, however funding for this change is yet to be secured.
The World Health Organisation released treatment guidelines in September 2015 stating that âAnyone infected with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon after diagnosis as possibleâ, and many countries have made the necessary changes, but New Zealand is still lagging behind.
The NZAF say new studies have shown that for those on treatment with an undetectable viral load, the risk of passing on HIV is almost zero.
NZAF Executive Director Dr Jason Meyers says âAll the tools exist to manage HIV and prevent transmission and making immediate treatment available to people diagnosed with HIV is one of them. It is a gross injustice that an individual should be denied treatment that both improves their health and has dramatic impact on their ability to pass on the virus.
âThe outdated policy was developed when HIV treatments were considered too toxic and something to be avoided until absolutely necessary. But newer treatments are far less toxic.â
âFacilitating immediate treatment access is just one key to responding to a resurgent New Zealand HIV epidemic. NZAF has set a bold vision of ending new HIV infections in New Zealand by 2025 and this goal is achievable. We will not get there however unless the response is underpinned by effective policies,â
The organisation is now asking New Zealanders to support them as they urge Pharmac to remove barriers to treatment and have set up a petition, which you can sign here.
Alongside this campaign the NZAF are joining Body Positive and Positive Women to get out on the streets, and among the crowds to shake buckets.
Following the collection, on Saturday 3 December Body Positive are hosting the Love Dance Party in Auckland, so you can dance the night away while showing your support for World AIDS Day. Proceeds from the night will be donated to the Wellness Fund to help people living with HIV around the country.
Collectors will be shaking buckets in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland on Thursday 1 December so remember to watch out for their friendly faces out on the streets.
Click here to take a look at the lineup of the PuÄwai Festival.
Love Dance Party
Saturday 3 December, 10pm
Dress code: Red
Tickets available at iTicket or Marcellos Caffe