Homophobia identified as growing issue in BOP
The crippling problem of homophobia in the Bay of Plenty needs to be addressed so the region can pull its weight in
helping bring down New Zealand’s burgeoning HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men, says SH4U (Western Bay Sexual
Health Coalition) spokesperson Toni Ashmore.
This comes after a community forum, held by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation in Tauranga last Friday (21 July),
identified discrimination and prejudice against gay and bisexual men as a key area of concern.
“The Bay of Plenty community needs to own the responsibility for helping bring down the rates of HIV,” says Toni
Ashmore. “This means dealing first and foremost with issues around homophobia, and recognising there are gay and
bisexual men in Tauranga who are facing the epidemic of HIV and AIDS. They are our fathers, sons, brothers, uncles,
friends, workmates and family.”
Ensuring the safe sex message remains paramount is another key weapon in the fight against HIV, she says.
“Sex between men is happening in our community, regardless of whether people approve,” Toni Ashmore says. “What we also
know is that these men are far less likely to use condoms if they live in an environment where they’re constantly
receiving messages that they’re ‘abnormal’ or ‘sinful’. We all need to be working with the gay and bisexual men in our
community to provide support and information.”
The Sexual Health Coalition will continue to work alongside the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Toi Te Ora - Public Health
and other support groups in the Bay of Plenty area to make sure messages around safe sex and homophobia remain visible.