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Sunday 09 April 2017

"Thank you Shaun"

Posted in: Health & HIV, Features
By David Friar, NZAF chair - 25th May 2016

David Friar, Chair of the NZ AIDS Foundation, publicly thanks the organisation's just-departed Executive Director Shaun Robertson for his contribution to the fight against the HIV epidemic...

David Friar
Tena Koutou Katoa

It’s my great pleasure to thank Shaun publicly for his outstanding contribution to NZAF and to farewell him on behalf of the NZAF family.

When Shaun told me a couple of months ago that he was leaving to take up the role of Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, I felt many mixed emotions. I was sad that we were losing Shaun, grateful for the outstanding job that Shaun had done at NZAF over the past five years, and excited for Shaun and for the Mental Health Foundation for the new opportunities that lie ahead.

And I’m sure that many staff, members and volunteers at NZAF, as well as the broader community, experienced similar emotions when they heard the news. Sad, thankful and excited for Shaun.

Shaun Robinson
I want to focus on the thanks. There are many, many things that I could thank Shaun for. But I want to highlight three in particular.

First, Shaun has lead the work in updating our prevention strategy. This has been an important change. For a long time, we have focused on condoms as our primary prevention strategy. And as we will continue to say, condoms remain critical to our efforts.

But developments over the past couple of years means that there are now more tools in the toolbox. Testing more, treating early and PreP are all tools that can be used to end the transmission of HIV in New Zealand within a decade, and Shaun has been instrumental in broadening our prevention strategy to make best use of all of these tools.

One of these prevention tools is making treatment available early to people living with HIV. That means that Pharmac needs to remove the CD4 threshold. It’s good for prevention, but even more fundamentally, it’s good for peoples’ health. People living with HIV should not have to wait years before getting access medication.

NZAF has lobbied and lobbied for this. We’ve repeatedly met with leaders throughout the government and Pharmac. We’re hopeful that the new money that the government recently allocated to Pharmac will cover the costs of removing the threshold. But if that doesn’t happen, we as gay men will need to make a stand. No more delay. It is unacceptable.

Second, Shaun has broadened the cultural base and awareness of the organisation. First, there’s the organisation’s relationship with tangata whenua and mana whenua, and with the takataapui community. That relationship is critical, and Shaun has worked hard with the team to develop, nourish and enhance that relationship.

In addition, there’s the African programme, Pasifika relationships, our outreach to the many Asian communities, and much more. Our communities are changing, and Shaun has led the organisation in responding to these challenges.

And finally, Shaun has increased NZAF’s collaboration, both internally – across teams – and externally, with other HIV organisations, sexual health organisations, gay community organisations, and so many other stakeholders. It’s a testament to Shaun that so many people from so many organisations are here to farewell Shaun today.

So Shaun, thank you. Thank you on behalf of the trust board, the organisation and the broader community. Thank you for your outstanding leadership of this organisation, and for your unstinting commitment to the kaupapa of ending HIV.

We will miss you. The Mental Health Foundation is very lucky to have you, but know that you will always be part of our family and our community. Go well. Kia ora.

David Friar, NZAF chair - 25th May 2016

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