New Zealand Aids Foundation arouses new perception on HIV

A new campaign released by the New Zealand Aids Foundation (NZAF) aims to flip the script on HIV, encouraging men to stay safe, test often and treat early, as well as drop their load to end HIV.

The campaign stars comedian Tom Sainsbury and has been delivered by Ending HIV – a community-focused behavioural change programme run by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) to reach men who have sex with men.

The minute-long spot titled ‘One of those chats’, shows a couple sitting inside a taxi speaking freely about their sex life. Sainsbury fetishizes about sexbot roleplay’, and ‘neighing like a horse when he drops his load’ while his partner opens up about having an undetectable viral load for more than six months which means HIV can’t be passed on through sex. 

Marketing manager for Ending HIV Micheal Shaw says the campaign tells New Zealanders that if someone living with HIV has had an undetectable viral load for more than six months, HIV does not transmit through sex – even if condoms aren’t being used.  

The campaign educates communities on the misperceptions that surround HIV and enforces that an undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in a person’s blood is no longer able to be detected by a standard viral load test. Additionally, the message from Ending HIV is in support of the global U=U movement, which declares that undetectable equals untransmittable.

Shaw says that evidence has been mounting for a long time and every study is saying the same thing, which aligns with its statement.

“People are still using ‘unsafe’ as a synonym for ‘condomless’, that needs to change. We feel proud to tell New Zealanders that dropping their load has never been so risk-free.”

The campaign has been released on a number of platforms – on the radio, flicking through Grindr, or posters on main streets all over the country.

To spread the word further, Ending HIV has created 1,500 pun-filled cum rags, to educate about undetectable while loads are dropped.

While some would argue marketing ‘cum-rags’ is slightly on the grotesque side, Shaw says it’ll always ruffle a few feathers when we’re talking about sex.

“But we’re not going to end HIV by whispering about it.”

A 2014 study found by NZAF shows that only seven percent of Kiwis would be prepared to have a sexual relationship with someone living with HIV – and only 45 percent would be willing to eat food prepared by an HIV positive person.

For the 3500 New Zealanders living with HIV, the campaign aims to tackle some of the stigma they still face particularly within their own community.

The campaign accepts that maintaining an undetectable viral load might not be possible for everyone who is diagnosed with HIV, even if they take their medication as prescribed. Therefore, it states that it is important that people living with HIV are not pressured or expected to have an undetectable viral load.

NZAF argue that regardless of achieving undetectable or not, getting on treatment early gives someone diagnosed with HIV the best chance of leading a long and healthy life. 

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