World AIDS Day – Puāwai Festival


The Puāwai Festival, in association with Body Positive, The New Zealand AIDS Foundation and Positive Women Inc, returns to Auckland from Monday 27 November to Saturday 2 December, shining the spotlight on some of the little talked about HIV-related issues and highlighting personal stories of those living with with the virus.

Raising awareness and funds through performing arts, six performance spaces will provide safe spaces for audiences to come together, share their stories and celebrate honest representation of HIV in New Zealand.

World AIDS Day on Friday 1 December is an opportunity for people across the world to unite in the fight against HIV and show their support for those living with HIV while remembering those who have passed.

“It’s really powerful for people living with HIV to take control of the virus and know that they’re not infectious and they’re living healthy and good lives,”

Last year marked the highest number of new HIV diagnoses since the beginning of the epidemic here and there couldn’t be a more important time to be a part of the conversation.


There is a full lineup of events this year, including four days of activity at Garnet Station hosted by Positive Women Inc, events at both Q Theatre and Family Bar put together by the NZAF and a spotlight event from Body Positive at the Tin Room, not to mention the Whakapapa panel at the Basement Theatre.

The glitz and glamour of the cabaret fundraiser The Upside Down Gala is the highlight of the programme, with an evening of storytelling, comedy and song from an impressive lineup including Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jackie Clarke, Caitlin Smith and Neil Thornton.

If you can’t wait for the summer holidays to roll around and keen to party for a good cause, why not head along to BRIEFS on World AIDS Day, with $2.50 from every ticket being donated to the NZAF and then make your way up to Family Bar for the Ending HIV Red Party featuring some Auckland’s favourite drag queens.

While some of us may be a little shy to talk about the big issues, Body Positive invite members of the public to Let’s Talk About Sex, a community discussion focusing on gay men, sex and recreation drugs that offers a safe space for people to talk about their experiences if they wish.

“If people don’t talk about stuff then it’s all on the down-low and it’s something they keep hidden and secret and so they may be doing things that they wouldn’t normally do,” says Body Positive Executive Director Mark Fisher, who has put together the event at The Tin Room.

“The one thing about crystal myth for example is that it drops your inhibitions so you may do things that you may not normally do without assessing the risk of it.”

The Puāwai Festival was created to engage with people beyond the annual World AIDS Day street collection and to share knowledge and history that is getting lost as the years go by.

“What we found two years ago when we started [the festival] was that there is a number of young gay guys who don’t know what the AIDS quilt is and so some of that history is being lost,”  says Fisher.

He says the Whakapapa piece, for example, is an opportunity to share oral history and the stories of people who have been involved in AIDS activism throughout the years.

This World AIDS Day, Fisher is focused on helping people to realise that engaging in care immediately after diagnosis can help them to get to the ‘undetectable’ status.

“It’s really powerful for people living with HIV to take control of the virus and know that they’re not infectious and they’re living healthy and good lives,” he says.

“It’s about people taking control of their lives and their health.”