New Zealand AIDS Foundation Relaunches to Reflect Evolution in the HIV and AIDS Journey in Aotearoa
New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) is relaunching as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa to honour its co-founder, pioneering AIDS activist Bruce Burnett, and to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the future
The announcement coincides with new data that shows the reported number of people locally diagnosed with HIV at its lowest since the 1990s
While the goal of eliminating local HIV transmission is within reach, ongoing work will be required to prevent a resurgence; NZAF’s new name enables a continued community-led HIV response into the future
Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa: New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF), along with its Ending HIV NZ programme, has announced today that it has relaunched as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa. The new name honours the Foundation’s co-founder, pioneering AIDS activist Bruce Burnett.
NZAF’s programmes and services have continually evolved over the last 37 years as new issues have emerged that affect the communities it serves, including challenges posed by other STIs and physical and mental health issues affecting people living with or affected by HIV. The name change allows the charity to continue to evolve over time.
The landscape of HIV and AIDS in Aotearoa has changed significantly since NZAF was founded in 1985. Last month, new research released by Otago University underscored the success of our collective public health effort responding to HIV and AIDS.
The data showed the number of those who acquired HIV in Aotearoa New Zealand continues to fall, with just 43 people in 2021 – the lowest figures since the 1990s. The number of AIDS diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths have also continued to remain very low.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa Board Chair Sam Humphrey says, “We have listened carefully to the communities we serve. One consistent message was that, with AIDS now being rare in Aotearoa thanks to effective HIV treatments, NZAF’s current name no longer reflects the particular challenges we face, or the services we need to provide.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa has been named in honour of Bruce Burnett; a pioneering AIDS hero in Aotearoa. In the early 1980s, before widespread global panic about the epidemic had reached our shores, Bruce and a dedicated group of heroes created a nationwide support organisation for those living with and affected by AIDS, and later HIV, which was still a mystery illness at the time.
Bruce dedicated the remainder of his life to the cause that changed the face of public health in Aotearoa and undoubtedly saved many lives. The last great act he was able to do for the response before passing away was to sign the document that secured the first round of government funding for what would soon become the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.
Robyn Mihaere, Bruce’s sister, says: “Bruce was a pioneering campaigner, a beacon for like-minded people to join the cause, a change-maker, and ultimately a life-saver. It is hard to comprehend how brave he was to publicly reveal he was living with HIV at a time when those living with the disease were shunned and persecuted, and homosexuality, sex work and needle possession were all still illegal. I’m so proud to be his sister and to see him recognised in this way.
“More people need to know about the legacy of my incredible brother, so it’s only fitting that Burnett Foundation Aotearoa now carries his name, with pride to acknowledge and honour him always.”
Rodrigo Olin, who has been living with HIV for almost 20 years is proud of what has been achieved so far, and looks forward to being a part of the mahi moving forward.
“Together, we’ve come so far in our response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The collective mahi from activists, researchers, medical teams, and community organisations such as the New Zealand AIDS Foundation has been such an important element of success in Aotearoa’s HIV response. I am hopeful this announcement paves the way for another 30 years of trail-blazing advocacy, education, and awareness to achieve the goal of eliminating the stigma and discrimination related to HIV and living with HIV.”
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa retains the vision, mission, and principles of NZAF, and will play a key role in ending local HIV transmission by 2025.
Incoming Burnett Foundation Aotearoa Chief Executive Joe Rich says he is inspired and excited by this next step in the organisation’s journey.
“HIV will always remain at our core, even when we reach our goal of eliminating new transmissions. We know that if we were to take our foot off the gas in the future, infections would rebound quickly. Burnett Foundation Aotearoa will continue to empower rangatahi and future generations to stay safe.”
For more information, visit: BurnettFoundation.org.nz
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About Burnett Foundation Aotearoa
Formed in response to the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, Burnett Foundation Aotearoa (formerly New Zealand AIDS Foundation) has been at the forefront of this work for nearly 40 years.
Today, we still work towards an Aotearoa with zero HIV transmissions, where people living with or affected by HIV flourish.