Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua 

I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past. 


We are an organisation founded by heroes. Heroes who saw what was coming and decided to do something about it – who undoubtedly impacted and saved countless lives. Heroes who have largely flown under the radar, without the recognition they deserve.  

Bruce Burnett, one of our co-founders, is one of these heroes. Someone we hope more people will come to know – now that we carry his name.  


A little about Bruce Burnett 

Originally from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Bruce Burnett lived in Europe for a time, before moving to California in 1982. Bruce saw firsthand the impact AIDS was having in San Francisco and, at a time when this illness didn’t even have a name or confirmed routes of transmission, he volunteered to support those who were dying.  

Bruce Burnett

In late 1983 he began to feel unwell himself and returned to Aotearoa. 

Arriving home to a country and community that knew little to nothing about the devastation happening overseas - Bruce took it upon himself to start raising awareness. He, alongside other incredible activists, writers, healthcare professionals, scientists, community leaders and people with legal and marketing expertise, then started a movement that changed the face of public health in Aotearoa.  

Bruce made the government take notice, made our most vulnerable and marginalised communities take notice, and, impressively, he made the general public take notice.  

Bruce was one of those first brave people in Aotearoa who shared their own story of living with AIDS in order to educate and support others. 

He was instrumental in establishing (with Bill Logan, Phil Parkinson and many others) the national AIDS Support Network – a group that would later become the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and today Burnett Foundation Aotearoa.  

The 30 Project 1985, Bruce Burnett taking a phone call

Bruce Burnett, answering the phones & helping people at the AIDS Hotline

Bruce was able to sign the document that secured the first official government funding for this organisation in March of 1985 and passed away from AIDS-related illness on the 1st of June, 1985 - he was 30 years old.  

Our first clinic, which opened in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in July 1986, is named after him - and now too is our whole organisation. 

We of course acknowledge all of the individuals involved in the response and establishing this organisation. While we couldn’t include them all in the name, we are committed to honouring their legacy now and into the future. Many of these same individuals were very pleased to learn Bruce would be getting the recognition he deserves.  

You will be able to learn more about Bruce and many of these other wonderful people in Our Forgotten Epidemic, a new, six-part podcast series about key parts of the HIV and AIDS response in Aotearoa.

Our forgotten epidemic podcast

Listen to Part Two: Who was Bruce Burnett?

Our Forgotten Epidemic is a six-part series about parts of Aotearoa New Zealand's response to HIV and AIDS, and some of the many brave individuals who changed the course of history.

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa branding, house and ribbon

What do we do?

With the same passion and commitment as those who came before us, Burnett Foundation Aotearoa continues to prevent HIV transmission, combat stigma and maximise the wellbeing of those most affected by HIV. 

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