Mr Gay New Zealand to use position to fight HIV stigma

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HIV activist Charlie Tredway has been crowned 2017’s Mr Gay New Zealand.

The South African born, Kiwi-raised Tredway was announced as the winner yesterday after ten finalists completed a series of challenges at the Ending HIV Big Gay Out in Auckland.

Tredway, 33, works as a Community Engagement Officer at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and is HIV positive. He has said that he will use the title to continue raising awareness and a discussion around sexual health and HIV, to tackle the stigma both in and out of the community. He described the virus as “one of the most taboo topics, mired in shame and shrouded and misinformation.”

After his victory was announced, 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.”

When the win had settled in, he took to Facebook to thank all of his supporters: “Now that I am home with a glass of wine and have the chance to process everything I need to say that this journey and moment is in actual fact devoted entirely to the HIV+ community. If you have ever felt like you can’t be authentic and open, or have been made to feel unclean or lesser because of your status. This is for you and only you. Never be afraid to expect or demand the same dignity and consideration anyone else receives. You are as wonderful and worthwhile and tremendous and beautiful and intelligent and special as everyone else on earth. And I say this with the utmost love: don’t you ever fucking forget it or believe otherwise.”

Bernard Lee, the 2016 winner, said Tredway will be a tremendous ambassador for the country on the world stage: “Charlie has been really strong across the whole competition including the public vote and charity sections where he ranked highest out of all of the finalists.”

Tredway will go on to represent New Zealand at the Mr Gay World Finals in Madrid and Maspalomas, Spain from 5 – 10 May.

(Photo Credit: Charlie Tredway/Facebook).