The Kiwi man who was crowned this year’s Mr Gay New Zealand wants to use the title to raise awareness of HIV and break down the stigma around the virus.
Charlie Tredway, who is living with HIV, works for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation as a community engagement officer and was announced as the winner during Auckland’s Big Gay Out event last weekend.
The 33-year-old beat out nine other finalists for the title, and will go on to represent his country at the Mr Gay World Finals in Spain in May.
He said he was overwhelmed by the win, and said he entered the contest because of his passion for HIV awareness and advocacy.
“I think it’s one of the most taboo topics, mired in shame and shrouded in misinformation than just about anything else in our community,” he said.
“I’d like to say people are all informed but in 2015 we had the highest number of new transmissions in the history of New Zealand, and yet you only have to read the comments on any post pertaining to HIV to see that many people don’t think it’s an issue any more.
“And as a HIV-positive person, you only need to open an app and disclose to encounter hostility and misguided fear.
“We are in a really bold time for the HIV prevention response. Now more than ever before we have a combination of tools that can, without hyperbole, end new transmissions of HIV and make stigma a thing of the past.
“But to do that, people need to be informed, open to discussing this sort of thing, and move past the apathy.”
Last year’s Mr Gay New Zealand Bernard Lee said he thinks Charlie will be a “tremendous ambassador” for the country.
“His work with the AIDS Federation and the Ending HIV campaigns will complement all of the work he will do as an ambassador for New Zealand on the world stage,” he said.
Late last month we met 29-year-old David Francis, who will represent Australia in the finals of the Mr Gay World 2017 in Spain in May.