21 Nov 2014

Worlds AIDS Day

From New Zealand Society, 3:30 pm on 21 November 2014

Jewel Grimshaw
Jewel Grimshaw - Photo courtesy NZAF and Positive Women

“HIV is something you can manage but the stigma is something you cannot.”

– Jewel Grimshaw.

Monday the 1st of December is the 26th World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is “Zero Discrimination”.

There are about two thousand people in New Zealand living with HIV. An estimated five hundred are women. Globally, 35 million people have died of AIDS, but these days, around the world almost the same number with HIV continue to live.

A new survey carried out by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and the organisation Positive Women shows that despite knowing the key facts about how HIV is transmitted, people in this country still discriminate against those with HIV. It’s produced a short film called More than HIV. In it, three men and three women who’re HIV-positive talk about the discrimination they face.

The Executive Director of the Aids Foundation Shaun Robinson says discrimination is a really barrier to people’s wellbeing, and it can stop them getting HIV tests. “In some cases people avoid getting medication because fear of the stigma outweighs the fear of dying”.

The Coordinator of Positive Women Jane Bruning who’s had HIV for over 25 years, says she has come across discrimination in small ways, even from the medical profession.

Jonathan Smith who appears in the film says discrimination even comes from within the gay community itself.

Shaun Robinson says the survey shows that the majority of people in New Zealand understand that a person cannot get HIV by sharing a glass of water, hugging, or sharing food with someone who is HIV positive.

World Aids Day interviewees
Left: Jane Bruning, Middle: Jonathan Smith, Right: Shaun Robinson - Photos courtesy NZAF and Positive Women

But he says 47 percent of those surveyed indicated they’d be uncomfortable having a flatmate with HIV. Fifty-six-percent wouldn’t like to eat food prepared by an HIV-positive person.

Jewel Grimshaw who also appears in the film says the stigma can sometimes be worse than the virus. HIV is something that can be managed. The stigma isn’t.

Shaun Robinson believes the discrimination is a hang-over from the days when AIDS was an epidemic that people didn’t know how to stop, and was an almost certain death sentence.

“If we can show people who have HIV to be real people, then it’s more difficult to discriminate against them. That’s the point of the short film.”


From The NZ Aids Foundation/ Positive Women Survey

1,031 New Zealanders aged 18-years or over throughout New Zealand responded to the online survey, between 8th and the 14th September 2014. Results have been weighted by age, gender and region to ensure they are representative of the New Zealand 18+ population.

Key findings

Knowledge of HIV transmission

  • 73% people answered correctly that you cannot get HIV from sharing a drinking glass with someone living with HIV
  • 96% people answered correctly that you cannot get HIV from hugging someone living with HIV
  • 80% people answered correctly that you cannot get HIV from sharing food with someone living with HIV

Attitudes towards people living with HIV

  • 47% said they would be uncomfortable having a flatmate who is living with HIV
  • 23% said they would be uncomfortable being friends with someone living with HIV. Only 1 in 4 (24%) people said they would be comfortable with this.
  • 56% said they would be uncomfortable having food prepared by someone living with HIV.

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