Mr Gay New Zealand winner wants to use position to break down HIV stigma

The newly-crowned winner of Mr Gay New Zealand says he hopes to use his position to raise awareness of HIV and tackle the stigma surrounding the virus that still exists in the gay community. Charlie Tredway, from Auckland, was announced as the winner at the 'Ending HIV Big Gay Out' in Auckland on Sunday (12 February). The 33-year-old, who lives with HIV, emerged victorious after ten finalists were put through numerous tasks to find out who will represent the country at the Mr Gay World Finals. "I'm just really overwhelmed, never in a million years. The community got behind me and I've run out of words." he said after his victory was announced. Tredway works with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation as their Community Engagement Officer, and says he will use his position to continue his HIV advocacy work. "I know I sort of seem like a one issue pony but creating a discussion around HIV and Sexual Health is the reason I wanted to enter in Mr. Gay NZ," he said. "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 continued: "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 anymore. "And as an HIV+ person, you only need open an app and disclose to encounter hostility and misguided fear." He added: "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. The previous winner of Mr Gay New Zealand, Bernard Lee, said that Tredway will be a "tremendous ambassador" for New Zealand when  Mr Gay World 2017 takes place in Madrid and the Canary Islands from 5-11 May 2017. More stories: Relive Jamie Dornan’s revealing Attitude shoot and interview from 2006 Grammy Awards 2017: Live Blog