December 1st marks the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, a significant date that commemorates those lost to HIV/AIDS, supports those living with the virus and reflects on the strides made in combatting this global health challenge. This year’s theme, “Let Communities Lead,” highlights the crucial role of communities in driving effective and meaningful change in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, the concerted efforts of people living with HIV, allies, healthcare workers, and public health officials have catalyzed scientific and clinical breakthroughs, reshaping the trajectory of HIV. One such milestone is the implementation of the GIPA principles (The Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV), which have been instrumental in ensuring that those affected by HIV are at the forefront of decision-making and program design.
In Aotearoa, New Zealand, significant advancements in treatment now guarantee immediate access to care and treatment upon diagnosis, enabling individuals with HIV to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. This progress is further amplified through Body Positive’s “I’m Healthy and I Live with HIV” campaign, which showcases inspiring stories of local heroes living with HIV.
A crucial aspect of combating HIV is awareness and testing. Knowing one’s status allows for appropriate care, whether it’s accessing PrEP for HIV prevention or engaging in treatment after a positive diagnosis. New Zealand has also taken a commendable step by removing immigration barriers for people living with HIV, reflecting a commitment to inclusivity and the acknowledgment that HIV poses no significant cost burden.
However, the journey is far from over. Stigma and discrimination continue to pose significant barriers, underscoring the need for ongoing efforts to reach all populations equitably. Workplace discrimination based on outdated perceptions of transmission risks is still prevalent despite the U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) understanding that effectively treated individuals cannot transmit HIV.
Community engagement remains a cornerstone of HIV prevention and awareness. Since embracing the U=U message in 2018, efforts have been focused on changing policies and attitudes to eradicate stigma and discrimination.
As we mark the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day, New Zealand stands at a pivotal point. Sustained investment and commitment are imperative to build on the progress made and honour those lost to HIV-related illnesses. The call to action includes sharing success stories through the “I’m Healthy” campaign, wearing a Red Ribbon to raise awareness, and actively combating HIV stigma and discrimination.
Body Positive encourages the public to engage with and share digital resources and social media content using the hashtags #WorldAidsDay and #ImHealthy, championed by Body Positives.
Together, with unwavering dedication, we can ensure that the legacy of four decades of scientific advancements in HIV/AIDS benefits everyone equally, continuing to shape a future free from stigma and discrimination.
For more information, head to: bodypositive.org.nz