The Ministry of Health has engaged in a process of developing a new National Strategy for Sexually Transmitted and Blood Born infections (STTBI) which will include individual action plans for separate conditions such as HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis etc.
Initially Positive Women Inc. was not included in either the Strategy or Action Plan working groups, but thanks to our allies, NZAF, who questioned the absence of Positive Women Inc. and Body Positive and brought to our attention that the process was even happening. After some consultation with representatives from the Ministry of Health, we are please to say that Positive Women Inc. has now been included on the wider Strategy and HIV Action Plan working groups.
The time frames have been VERY tight, led by Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall wanting the first draft version on her desk by November. This does not give time for wide or sincere community consultation however NZAF was asked to set up an advisory group for people living with HIV. While this is a step in the right direction, we did point out that NZAF is not a people living with HIV network and the Positive Women Inc. and BP should have been asked to do this consultation. After some discussion, and mostly due to the tight time frame, it was accepted that NZAF lead on the people living with HIV Advisory group in collaboration with PWI and BP.
Due to the tight time frame, a call was sent out to several people living with HIV from both Positive Women Inc and Body Positive. People approached were mostly those who had done the PLDI course or have been involved in advocacy work before. A couple of meetings have occurred with this working group who are mostly providing feedback on proposed actions identified by the Strategy working group, from the Stigma Index, and other relevant health sector providers.
The last HIV Action Plan was written over 20 years ago, so this is a unique and appropriate opportunity for people living with HIV to provide a lived experience perspective and to advocate for the needs of people living with HIV both from a public health and lived experience perspective going forward over the next 10 years.
The process hasn’t been perfect, and it is frustrating to realise that after 31 years of existence, Positive Women Inc. and the work we do, is not significant enough to be included at the initial stages of this process. But we are at the table now. Dinner is a little cool, and the service is a little questionable, but there is time and opportunities to turn this around and we welcome the opportunity to be able to contribute.
We will keep you posted as the process continues. There will be an opportunity for public feedback at some stage and we will be sure our members and reader receive a copy of the draft so you too can have your say.
Regardless, this is an exciting opportunity to contribute towards the development of a much-needed strategy and action plan which has the vision of an “Aotearoa New Zealand where HIV transmission is eliminated and where all people living with HIV live long and healthy live free from Stigma and Discrimination”.