Marama Mullen-Tamati to attend Commission on the Status of Women
Marama Mullen-Tamati has been chosen to attend the Commision on the Status of Women, a United Nations (UN) meeting on women's issues. She became the first Māori woman to disclose her HIV status in 1993 and since then has been a staunch advocate for the rights of people infected with HIV and AIDS.
She says many people still live in shame because of the stigma attached to the disease.
"There's data that is presented that says there's between 20 to 40 Māori women living with HIV. But in the course of my work, in my mahi I've probably met at least 50."
While Mullen-Tamati says there is support for her mahi, she says there's a long way to go when it comes to education and information about HIV.
"We do struggle with some sort of scenarios where people aren't getting the education or the information that they need. I can say, yes we're definitely supported by the leadership within Te Ao Māori and iwi, however, Joe Blow down the road at the marae still thinks that this is a gay man's disease."
As a previous guest of the UN, Mullen-Tamati has represented Māori rights issues, however, this week she returns to represent all indigenous women living with HIV.
"For many years we've been really speaking up for raising things around an awareness of women living with HIV. I'm going there to speak about indigenous women living with HIV."
Mullen-Tamati explains that there are many social health experiences shared among indigenous peoples which place people at risk of infection with HIV.
"We're measuring their social health determinants of what makes us all similar and how do we all connect with our indigenous whānau overseas. And we saw that we have similar social health determinants. High rates of imprisonment, drug use, etc. All the sort of pre-cursors to putting yourself at risk of HIV."
After her she attends the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, Mullen-Tamati will head to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva to continue her advocacy for indigenous women.