Blaise Clotworthy is the Volunteer and Events Officer at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. We worked with Blaise to bring panels from the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt to the public as part of the Queer Algorithms exhibition.
What is your role at New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and what does that entail?
I am the Volunteer and Events Officer at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF). My work involves connecting with community members and stakeholders, activating events that promote and educate about HIV prevention, regular testing, early treatment and combatting HIV stigma, as well as co-ordinating the volunteer and ambassador programmes, and running our youth programme.
What should all New Zealanders be aware of in relation to HIV?
In the last 40 years since the AIDS epidemic began we have come SO far. We know today that HIV is a manageable condition and modern medicine not only halts the virus from destroying people’s immune systems, but it halts sexual transmission – people living with HIV on effective treatment can NOT pass it on sexually (commonly known as Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U). We also have more prevention tools to help us end HIV transmissions in Aotearoa: condoms have always been a great prevention method for HIV and other STIs, but we now have funded access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) U=U which is the treatment prevention I mentioned before. These tools not only bring us closer to ending new HIV transmissions in Aotearoa, but they help us to fight the stigma people living with and affected by HIV experience by breaking down misinformation and discrimination.
What is the NZ AIDS Memorial Quilt?
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is made up of beautiful panels memorialising those who passed away due to AIDS-related illnesses. The New Zealand Quilt consists of 3 feet by 6 feet panels which are joined together in groups of eights to form 12 feet by 12 feet blocks. Each fabric panel is lovingly created by family, friends, partners and co-workers, and each is as unique as the person it represents – often carrying the details of that person’s life. The larger quilt is housed in Te Papa National Museum in Wellington and The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is the kaitiaki of another 13 individual panels which we preserve in order to reflect, remember, educate and advocate. These panels are an powerful reminder that we stand upon the shoulders of many amazing people, whose lives were not lost in vain – for we are able to live full and happy lives because of the incredible people who have gone before.
NZ AIDS Memorial Quilts in Queer Algorithms, Gus Fisher Gallery, 2020. Photography by Sam Hartnett.
What do you do outside of your role at NZAF?
Outside of my role at NZAF, I enjoy keeping active. I used to be a professional performer, so keeping my dance practice alive is important. I enjoy reading and going for hikes and adventures around greater Tāmaki Makaurau.
How have you been doing to keep yourself entertained during the lockdown?
During Isolation I found a new passion of jazzercise and would regularly run live sessions through my Instagram account in the mornings. I read through a pile of books I had been intending to read for ages and I taught myself to cook dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan food!
What are you looking forward to once you go back to mahi?
I think the thing I’m most excited about, with going back to mahi, is being able to incorporate learnings from my work during lockdown and integrate those practices into how I worked prior to the lockdown. I think this will allow me to create some really exciting and innovative offerings for the communities I serve.