Wrapping up 2021 - a busy, difficult, yet successful year for NZAF
This article was published in 2021. To maintain an accurate record of our history, we have kept references to previous organisation names and terms such as New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Ending HIV and Love Your Condom.
It’s time to wrap up another big year for NZAF, and share it with you all before you hopefully get some time to rest and enjoy the holiday season.
Like every organisation in Aotearoa, NZAF has had to adapt to operating in the context of a global pandemic. And adapt we did! Our team really stepped up to develop programmes, services and messaging that meet the needs of those we serve, even when the way we work has had to evolve with COVID-19.
Heading into the holiday season is an important time to, not only wind down for the year, but to reflect on achievements and challenges, and look ahead to the future.
Take a look through some of the highlights below, we are very proud of these and so much more (too much to include in this article).
Some key successes under each of our strategic goals - as at Financial Year-end 20/21:
New engagement channels for young people
We took our messaging to TikTok!
To make sure we are there to help each new generation of people who could be at risk of HIV, we need to be where the people are. We can’t educate young people to know their risk, test and use prevention if we aren’t relevant or in the same spaces. As most of these spaces are now digital, and rapidly moving, we have to innovate and adapt.
TikTok is a social media platform that is very popular with young people and feedback from young takatāpui was that it is the only social media platform they used. TikTok has become a space for social education and health conversations, so it’s very important that we bring HIV and STI messaging for Aotearoa into this channel. We’re excited about the rapid growth on this platform.
As of December 2021, the Ending HIV TikTok has over 12,000 followers and our engagement rate is encouraging. Our most viewed TikTok has more than 2 million views!
Big Gay Out - 2021
The biggest Big Gay Out yet!
Delivering this event each year is an honour and after the events of 2020, the communities we serve deserved an excuse to celebrate. Big Gay Out 2021 saw record numbers celebrating together and being their authentic selves under the blazing summer sun.
As well as being a safe space for our communities to gather and celebrate, it is one of the biggest opportunities we have to educate people about prevention, testing and support services – especially as many of our communities’ needs are not met in mainstream systems.
The NZAF marketing team also managed to run a clever campaign to get the attention and attendance of celebrity guest Michelle Visage, of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame. Her appearance on stage drove the crowd wild and she even recorded some HIV prevention and testing messaging with us, for free, to use on social media!
2022 is fast approaching, and with that - another amazing Big Gay Out! Of course, the event will only take place if it is safe for us to do so under the new COVID Protection Framework. But, currently, things are looking good for another celebration in the sun.
We provided new options for people who need to test for STIs outside of clinical spaces
Partnering with Sexual Health 101, NZAF has been able to offer subsidised self-testing for a full range of STIs. After the success of our HIV self-test programme, this was a clear next step to better support the sexual health and overall wellbeing of those in our communities who can’t test in the clinic for whatever reason.
Clients now have the option of adding a full STI self-test kit to their HIV self-test orders, and if they meet the criteria, NZAF subsidises costs bringing the whole kit down to $20 NZD (including delivery and lab fees!).
We know that location, cost, stigma and so much more, are barriers to access for testing in general. Self-testing gives people an option that doesn’t require them to travel or ‘out’ themselves in local healthcare settings.
This service has rapidly expanded and we have seen more uptake during the multiple regional lockdowns that were in place throughout the year - giving people the ability to test at a trying time.
We also saw success in supporting Māori MSM and non-recent testers with a home testing programme
Our second Testbrush campaign focused on reaching audiences that we have had less success engaging in the past.
We distributed 681 kits and 14% of these orders went to Māori MSM, which is roughly proportional to Aotearoa’s Māori population. 60% went to MSM who said they had not tested within the previous 12 months.
Both of these populations are groups under-represented in our clinic settings and it’s encouraging to see the home self-test option has higher acceptability and usage rates. Making sure more people can easily access testing is so important.
We continued to campaign for wider awareness of U=U and HIV stigma
Nearly four decades on, the New Zealand HIV Sector is still fighting the harmful misconceptions around HIV. In 2019 Body Positive, NZAF and Positive Women Inc. launched Sperm Positive, which was the world’s first HIV positive sperm bank. If people living with HIV are on effective treatment, their viral load is suppressed to the point where there is no risk of sexual transmission or transmission during pregnancy and childbirth (Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U).
In 2020, we were proud to see the first babies born from the donations to this programme. It’s not every day that an awareness campaign literally results in the birth of a healthy, beautiful baby. A living example of the need to end HIV stigma.
Find out a little more about these beautiful babies in a book released in November 2021.
If a sperm donor living with HIV can help someone have a baby with no risk of transmission, then people’s misinformed concerns around cups, food and toilet seats don’t add up to much.
We also provided counselling support across nearly 700 sessions - as at June 30 2021
You raised over $375,000 to help us continue our work with people living with and affected by HIV
Sweat With Pride is a peer-to-peer fundraiser that encourages healthy movement to raise funds and awareness of the lack of health and wellbeing equity experienced by our Rainbow communities.
We know that intersectional issues have an impact on sexual health too. If Aotearoa isn’t a place where Rainbow communities can safely be their authentic selves and receive equitable healthcare and support, it is significantly harder to see better sexual health outcomes in the communities we serve.
1,551 generous, sweaty Kiwis from around Aotearoa and the globe, exercised every day in June 2021 to raise over $375,000 to support the work that we, RainbowYOUTH and OutLine do for these communities.
NZAF has a relentless advocacy programme and, alongside other organisations that work in this space, our advocacy efforts have seen some exciting results in 2021.
Just some of the outcomes from the past year:
- Removal of barriers to immigration for people living with HIV - the government has removed HIV from the list of conditions “likely to impose significant cost” for determining standard of health in immigration applications
- NZAF and other dedicated HIV organisations successfully advocated for the inclusion of people living with HIV in the group 3 rollout for the COVID-19 vaccine
- We have advocated for many years for government to create a new sexual health action plan, which is now being addressed by the newly formed STBBI Working Group. The Ministry of Health seconded expertise to develop a specific HIV Elimination Action Plan and a draft of this exciting document is now with the Associate Minister.
- After years of advocacy, the Census has committed to collecting sexual identity data
- We lent our voice to submissions supporting bills that would ban conversion therapy and amend the Births Deaths and Marriages law.
- NZAF has been advocating tirelessly for many years for the behavioural research we need to effectively target our work to be funded again. Coupled with government funding resulting from advocacy, a significant Health Research Council grant now means that Dr Peter Saxton and his research team can now deliver this much-needed data. Keep an eye out for the research at BGO 2022.
It is fair to say that change is the only constant and 2022 will certainly keep us on our toes. The New Zealand Health and Disability system will go through its biggest transformation in decades and what this means for national NGOs like NZAF remains unclear. As well, we sincerely hope that the aforementioned strategy work in the space of STIs and HIV will translate into real commitment from the government. The inevitable and ongoing evolution of Aotearoa’s response to COVID-19 is also something we will have to move with.
Internally at NZAF, we have been working across multiple work streams to ensure we are the very best, most responsive and sustainable organisation we can be. There will be more ways to keep track of these journeys available soon, but for now - find out more below:
- Māori responsiveness
NZAF is committed to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and we acknowledge that we have a significant growth journey ahead in order to best serve and support Māori, both in our services and in our workplace.
We have formed a partnership with Maurea Consulting and have a significant programme of work underway to strengthen our Māori responsiveness. This will take the form of a specific strategy by the middle of 2022 and we look forward to sharing the fruits of this important mahi.
Our work with Maurea is only the beginning and one of many partnerships we are committed to fostering as we learn and grow in this space.
- Environmental responsibility
The three-year Environmental Sustainability Action Plan provides a list of actions and goals that will allow NZAF to address our three core sustainability commitments: Lead and Inspire, Reduce Waste and Reduce Carbon. In FY 2020/21 emissions from NZAF operations were calculated for the first time, measuring 56.4 tonnes of CO2e. Top contributors to NZAF emissions were air travel (36%), staff commuting to work (27%), and the Big Gay Out event (18%). In the coming year, policies will be developed to reduce emissions in these areas.”
- Better serving and prioritising the voices of people living with HIV
The MIPA Action Plan 2021-2023 is NZAF’s first guiding document in this space. Having clear actions and goals to prioritise the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV across recruitment, leadership and in informing our projects, will not only improve how we support people living with HIV, but our work in general.
You may be aware that we are currently on a rebrand journey and might have even offered feedback as part of our community consultation. We are committed to being as relevant as we can be both in 2022 and as far as we can see into the future.
We’re very aware that this is a big piece of work that will impact many of you, especially those who have been involved in our mahi for a long time. Decisions have not been made lightly and a lot of work is, and has been, going on to ensure we get this right.
We hope you are as excited as we are to share in a new version of NZAF that acknowledges where we have been and the legacy of our organisation, and sets its sights on a future where we can offer more holistic support in a wider range of spaces. Watch this space in 2022.