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Thursday 09 October 2008

NZ HIV advice applauded at United Nations

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News Staff - 24th June 2008

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New Zealand has been applauded at the United Nations after telling representatives of 140 nations that successful HIV prevention work can only happen if they institute human rights legislation to destigmatise affected groups and enable accurate data collection.

Cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard spoke to the UN General Assembly on HIV/AIDS two weeks ago, but his speech has only just been released in New Zealand after a observer at the UN in New York advised that Mallard and the NZ government's advice were listened to in complete silence followed by enthusiastic and lengthy applause. By contrast, other speeches were delivered against a background of distracted murmuring and only occasionally received scattered applause.

In his speech Mallard highlighted how data collection will be unreliable if people are not safe enough to be honest about how they became, or might become, infected. "We need to have the right information to know the epidemic. Our data collection cannot reflect reality when people are afraid to tell the truth," he told the UN.

Alluding to NZ gay community and political campaigns which saw the decriminalisation of homosexual relations in 1986 and the passing of anti-discrimination laws in 1996, Mallard urged governments to eliminate stigma and discrimination from the lives of all people affected by and infected with HIV.

He reminded the UN general Assembly on HIV/AIDS that because of this human rights-based approach New Zealand is a world leader in evidenced-based prevention and has one of the world's lowest rates of HIV prevalence.

"We have achieved this by putting human rights at the centre of our response:  decriminalising men who have sex with men and making discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and HIV status illegal; decriminalising prostitution and establishing needle exchange programmes.  This could only happen through true partnerships between civil society, most particularly people living with HIV, and the New Zealand government."