New Zealand’s Positive Women Inc. wins award from M.A.C AIDS Fund

Earlier this month the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, M.A.C. Cosmetics philanthropic foundation, presented Positive Women Inc., a support group for women living with HIV and their families in New Zealand, with $148, 201 NZD grant. Jane Bruning, National Coordinator of Positive Women Inc told UNAIDS how the funds come at a critical time.

UNAIDS: Congratulations on receiving the award from the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, how will the grant help the work of Positive Women?

2015 was the most difficult year financially for PWI in its 25 year history. We have seriously been talking about downsizing and having to let our wonderful community house go as we have been struggling to find the rent. This grant is a life saver. It has provided us with a semblance of security over the next 12 months with rent and some wages secured, while we try to source other funding avenues.

The grant will also support our HIV Women’s Seminar to be held in June and the bi-annual Family Hui in November for Families living with and affected by HIV.

It has already paid for the Pauwai Theatre Festival, which happened on World AIDS Day 2015. The theatre project supported a number of people living with HIV to take a drama class and learn to tell their stories through drama. This culminated in a 5-day Theatre Festival held over the week of World AIDS day in December 2015

UNAIDS: What kinds of challenges do women living with HIV in New Zealand face?

In New Zealand, women living with HIV are the forgotten minority. New Zealand is a low prevalence country for HIV, with men who have sex with men being the most at risk community for HIV. Subsequently the Ministry of Health’s funding and focus is predominately on this sector of the HIV community. This is understandable, but this focus comes at the cost of ignoring women and girls. This was highlighted in 2014 when a woman died as a result of not being offered a test for HIV as she was considered “not at risk”, even though she had been showing with AIDS-related symptoms for over two years with repeated visits to the hospital.  

UNAIDS: What are some of the ways Positive Women is working to lessen stigma and discrimination towards women living with HIV?

Positive Women Inc. ran the first ever HIV destigmatisation campaign in New Zealand called “Look beyond the Stereotype” in 2007 with a focus on women and predominantly funded through the M.A.C. AIDS Fund.  We joined with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation in 2013/14 to run a destigmatisation Campaign called “More than HIV”.

We also produced digital stories about women living with HIV, which resulted some very powerful videos:

 For International Women’s Day 2016 we are to launch a campaign  to coincide with the US “National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day campaign. This campaign will highlight that woman can get HIV and for women to “Take Charge: Take the test”. The face of the campaign will be the women who passed away in 2015. We have received the full support and backing from the women’s family.

More than HIV:

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