Te Aka Whai Ora wants to make sure that people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can live free from stigma and discrimination.

“Although Aotearoa has low rates of HIV compared to other countries, the virus still exists and for many, stigma and discrimination can stop people from accessing the care they need,” says Selah Hart, Maiaka Hāpori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Te Aka Whai Ora.

“Today is World AIDS day and it’s an important reminder that we can make positive changes in our whānau and communities so that if people live with HIV, they are supported to thrive.

“It’s also a time to honour those who have lost their lives and think about how we can work to help stop HIV all together by preventing the transmission of this virus,” Selah says.

Released in March this year, the National HIV Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand 2023–2030 provides a roadmap towards eliminating transmission of the virus and Te Aka Whai Ora is specifically working to address actions relating to whānau at risk of and living with HIV.

“The voices of communities affected by or at risk of HIV will be the cornerstone of this mahi by working with health agencies and providers to initiate, develop, implement and monitor the action plan.

“We will push for all people in Aotearoa having access to HIV services that meet their needs including from hauora Māori partners,” says Selah.

There is currently only one hauora Māori partner working to support people living with or at risk of HIV.

Based in Rotorua, Toitū te Ao provides holistic wellbeing support for those living with HIV and focusses on de-stigmatisation through a cultural lens.

Toitū te Ao supports people with the effects of aging with HIV and provides peer support to deal with stigma and discrimination. It also reaches out to rangatahi who are the biggest risk group for contracting HIV, providing sexual health education.

“We will work with Toitū to help break the stigma and discrimination experienced by those living with HIV through accurate information and culturally specific campaigns,” Selah says.

“We would like to see more providers equipped to provide HIV related care and promotion services that are culturally supportive to Māori and other culturally diverse groups.

“An Aotearoa where HIV transmission is eliminated and all people living with HIV have healthy lives free from stigma and discrimination is one we should all be pushing for,” she says.