The mainstays of this year’s Annual HIV Women’s Seminar, which took place on June 23rd (at the gorgeous Sorrento in the park here in Auckland), were curbing stigma, staying updated with the latest in the world of HIV treatments, heartfelt personal stories, understanding how new refugees in New Zealand deal with a HIV diagnosis and breaking down barriers of fear.
We were fortunate enough to have many distinguished speakers particularly medical healthcare practitioners who not only gave us timely updates about what is going on in the world of HIV treatments and testing but also enlightened us about how we don’t die of HIV anymore, we just die with it. With timely medical intervention people living with HIV now enjoy a healthy old age, they live full and active sexual lives, and when HIV reaches undetectable levels in their bodies they are also uninfectious. So much progress has been made in the fight against the virus but, as was evident in the personal and refugee stories, stigma remains the biggest barrier of all.
There is still not enough awareness about the many leaps and bounds being made in the medical push back of HIV, people who live with the virus are still made to feel as if there were something wrong with them, stigmatised for something that is still not understood the way it should be. New refugees coming into New Zealand, facing a HIV diagnosis, are reluctant to even acknowledge their status themselves for fear of being ostracised from their own communities. Personal stories from our very brave PWI members left the audience touched and affected – at some points a dry eye in the house was a hard thing to find.
We would like to thank immensely Dr Chris Kenedi, Dr David Miller, Dr Joan Ingram, Dr Jason Myers, Edith Rosenberg and Sue Petrie for their informative insights into the world of HIV medicine, stats concerning HIV in New Zealand and how we need to treat our bodies right. In addition, we would like to extend a very warm thank you, and a hug and a kiss to our wonderful members for bravely sharing their stories on the day.