Body Positive New Zealand, which provides care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS, is reminding New Zealanders that you can’t catch HIV by sharing a cup of coffee or having a conversation with someone who is HIV positive. They’re working towards breaking down the stigma that surrounds HIV in New Zealand, which only adds to isolation, fear and misinformation around the infection.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that compromises the immune system. If left untreated, it can progress to a more serious stage when it is considered as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
There are currently about 3000 people in New Zealand living with HIV, and the United Nations estimates there are approximately 38 million people around the world with HIV.
As the COVID-19 epidemic has demonstrated, the stigmatisation of infectious diseases remains an issue, and, along with discrimination, has been shown to create barriers when it comes to testing and engaging in care.
MidCentral DHB Medical Lead Sexual Health Dr Anne Robertson said it was important to know that people who are HIV positive who adhere to treatment are not infectious, and work continues towards the elimination of the virus.
“Although there has been a drop in new HIV notifications globally, we need to continue elimination efforts to get down to zero new cases and zero transmission,” she said.
Continuing testing efforts to prevent late diagnosis, through primary health care providers or sexual health services, is important in the effort to eradicate HIV.
MidCentral DHB Infectious Disease Consultant Dr Dalilah Restrepo said: “gender, racial, social and economic inequalities are the main drivers of epidemics and we must work towards levelling the playing field of these factors if we are going to end the epidemic.”