Positive Women Inc. celebrated 21 years of supporting women and families living with HIV with the symbolic removal of masks. Positive Women members and guests gathered on a windy October afternoon and remembered the early days of Positive Women and celebrated our achievements over the past 21 years.
Amongst the guests were Judith Ackroyd, the social worker who started Positive Women with a small group of women in 1991, and social worker Suzy Morrison, who joined Judith shortly afterwards at the District Health Board’s Community AIDS Resource Team. Judith and Suzy paid tribute to the small group of women who were our first members and who worked tirelessly to get Positive Women off the ground. Sadly, many of the women instrumental in forming Positive Women, such as Shirley Torrens and Ali Gardner, have since passed away. One woman of that group, who has been actively involved with Positive Women since then, spoke of the strong bonds formed during those early years and of their commitment to support each other and other women living with HIV. Alluding to the theme of the event, she said that living with HIV involves living with a mask at one stage or another.
Also speaking at the event was Jacinda Ardern, Labour List MP. “I think it is very fitting that we do have masks on here today. Women have been some of the most isolated within the HIV community. The best anecdote to isolation is knowledge and community. There is enormous strength in building a community with one another who understand the struggle and the fight and then bringing in the wider community who can provide additional support” Jacinda said.
Others present at the event who have been supporting Positive Women Inc. over the years were Drs. Rod Ellis-Pegler and Mark Thomas, two of the first HIV specialists in New Zealand and Wayne Otter, previously from the Burnett Centre.