New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and Ending HIV NZ are incredibly proud and excited to reintroduce ourselves as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa.
We have not embarked on this journey lightly. New Zealand AIDS Foundation has been a core component of our national HIV and AIDS response since 1985, so it was important to make sure that any change we made was based on the needs of the communities we serve and would honour our legacy.
HIV and AIDS have always been our core focus. We were founded to raise awareness and support those living with AIDS, and later HIV, and that is what we have continued to do, now and into the future.
However, the landscape of HIV, AIDS and STIs in Aotearoa has changed drastically over the past almost 40 years. We have the tools to end local HIV transmission - we now know that HIV is a preventable infection and AIDS is a preventable medical condition. In fact, for most people living with HIV in Aotearoa today, AIDS as a medical condition is no longer one of their major concerns. Moreover, people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass HIV to their sexual partners;; Undetectable = Untransmittable.
Our programmes and services have continually evolved as new issues have emerged that affect the communities we serve, including challenges posed by other STIs, and intersecting physical and mental health challenges affecting people living with or affected by HIV. A new name makes it easier for us to evolve over time by reflecting our broadened scope.
This journey has been a long one and was driven by consultation, our core values, and the need to ensure we had a name that was fit for our purpose.
While we thought that a rebrand made sense, we needed to ensure that it also made sense for our communities and partners.
In early 2020, we engaged with hundreds of people both face to face and via an online survey to find out how people felt about New Zealand AIDS Foundation. This included people living with HIV, community members, sector stakeholders, life members, clients, government, and our donors.
We heard clearly there was a desire for change, that having the word ‘AIDS’ in our name didn’t feel appropriate almost 40 years on. It was also made clear that any new name needed to honour our legacy, those we serve, and keep HIV and AIDS front and centre.
In particular, our life members, many of whom were around at the beginning of the organisation, told us that NZAF was never intended to be a forever name, and that it should evolve to meet the changing needs of those we serve.
In short, our consultation confirmed that a new brand was not only needed, but wanted.
Once we knew that our desire to rebrand was shared with our communities and partners, we had to decide what our new brand would look like.
During consultation, one thing we heard loud and clear was that our new name needed to honour those who have passed away from, or been affected by AIDS-related illness. This organisation's legacy was born from the AIDS response and that is something we are very proud of and need to carry into the future.
The natural progression of this focus was to name the organisation after one of its founders; the incredible Bruce Burnett. Bruce is a figure many people aren’t aware of, but we hope that our new name will play a key role in changing that.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa is named after Bruce Burnett, it’s co-founder and one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s pioneering AIDS activists. Bruce was one of the first brave people in Aotearoa to share their own story of living with AIDS to educate and support others.
Learn more about Bruce Burnett
By relaunching as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, our organisation is honouring its incredible legacy, while positioning itself to meet the evolving needs of people living with or affected by HIV, now and into the future. The new name also empowers us to think creatively about what else the organisation might do in the future, in addition to and building on our achievements to date.
While we have a new name and face, Burnett Foundation Aotearoa will retain the vision, mission, and principles of NZAF, and will play a key role in eliminating HIV-related stigma and ending local HIV transmission by 2025 (and keeping transmission away well into the future). We will continue to break down the barriers to prevention, testing and treatment, and access, while advocating for the communities most affected by HIV.
Since we were founded in 1985, the landscape of HIV and AIDS in Aotearoa has changed significantly. Monumental treatment and prevention breakthroughs and a better understanding of intersecting health challenges have all changed the shape of the work that needs to be done. AIDS diagnoses and AIDS-related deaths have continued to remain low. Our programmes and services have continually evolved since we were founded in 1985 as new issues facing our communities have emerged, and this is no exception; by relaunching as Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, we can honour our incredible legacy while better addressing the future needs of the communities we serve.
HIV and AIDS are still very real public health issues that we must continue to focus on. If anything, naming ourselves after one of Aotearoa’s first AIDS educators and activists reinforces our commitment to addressing HIV and AIDS – while acknowledging that after nearly 40 years, our name was no longer fit for purpose.
We remain committed to ending local HIV transmission by 2025 – a public health goal that we are so close to realising, with local HIV diagnoses at its lowest since late 1990’s. If we take our foot off the gas now, then infections will rebound quickly, so it requires a continued effort, beyond 2025. We’ve seen this with other epidemics such as measles. We will ensure Government is investing in the response to prevent a resurgence.
In many ways, decreasing numbers of new infections require us to work harder as we get closer to the goal of elimination. We also have a responsibility to ensure younger New Zealanders remain educated about safe sex, to ensure the message is not lost across generations.
HIV will remain at the core of what we do, but we know other health issues intersect with, and impact, vulnerability to HIV. A new name supports a more holistic approach as we continue to work towards ending new local HIV transmissions and support people living with HIV.
Bruce Burnett was one of the original AIDS activists in Aotearoa. In the early 1980s, Bruce Burnett and a brave, dedicated group of heroes created a nationwide support organisation for those living with AIDS, the AIDS Support Network, which later became NZAF in 1985 after securing government funding. He was a pioneering campaigner, a beacon for like-minded people to join the cause, a change-maker and, ultimately, a life-saver. A person who had the courage and passion to stand up for those living with HIV and AIDS, at a time when homosexual acts, sex work, and needle possession were all still illegal. Find out more about Bruce here.
HIV diagnoses continue to decline in Aotearoa New Zealand, with just 43 people reported to have acquired HIV in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2021 – the lowest figure in two decades. The number of AIDS-related deaths has also remained low. Find out more about HIV in Aotearoa
Absolutely – community conversations started 18 months ago and included a hui with key stakeholders, life members, clients, donors, and community members. Several hundred community members also took part in an online survey.
We have consulted with Bruce Burnett’s sister and ex-partner, and both are proud to know his legacy is being honoured in this way.
Bruce’s sister Robyn 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.”
We worked very hard to keep the costs of the rebrand minimal – we’ve worked with passionate partners to help us do this. We do not see this rebrand as a cost, we see it as an investment; an investment in helping us to reach people who previously didn’t engage with NZAF. We know that this rebrand will help us to do this, which is key to us achieving our goals.
We first must acknowledge the incredible work done by people like Bruce Burnett, and many others, in our early AIDS and HIV response. People living with HIV have also been integral to our success; an increase in early diagnoses and treatments have led to more people with undetectable viral loads, and this ultimately means zero risk of transmission.
Today, there are a lot of factors at play with increasing use of combination prevention being first and foremost. Critical policy changes including enabling early access to funded HIV treatment for everyone diagnosed with HIV in Aotearoa and increasing availability of PrEP have likely played a key role. In the last two years, many suspect that COVID-19 border closures and physical distancing rules contributed to the decreases because of reduced sexual networks of our core populations.
Over the last four decades, healthy policies such as early introduction of needle exchange programming and decriminalisation of sex work were key to keep the population rates of HIV low among people who inject drugs, sex workers, and prevent ongoing transmission among heterosexuals. These continue to be important part of our success.
We acknowledge that it is new for this organisation to move away from having 'AIDS' or another term in our name that tells people what we do. This was an intentional decision. Discretion is important for many in the communities we serve, which will help us to create a safe place for people who were not previously engaging with us for HIV testing, counselling or other services. Further, this allows for a more broad scope in the future for this organisation, should the resources become available. Noting that HIV prevention and support will always remain core to our mahi, regardless of other services we may introduce in the future. This name serves us well into the future as we evolve alongside the needs of the communities that we serve.
There are many HIV & AIDS organisations around the world with names that don't mention HIV & AIDS in their names. The Victorian AIDS Council in Australia recently changed their name to Thorne Harbour Health. It is our job to ensure the communities we serve know who we are and what we do to support them.
Learn more at Burnett Foundation Aotearoa
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