AIDS Foundation to be renamed after no AID-related deaths recorded in New Zealand for a year

For the first time ever, New Zealand has recorded no AIDS-related deaths in New Zealand for an entire year.

As a mark of the progress being made, the AIDS Foundation has decided to rename itself.

It will change its name to the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, after its co-founder and AIDS prevention pioneer, Bruce Burnett.

In the 1980s AIDS was considered a death sentence and prevention was deemed the only option.

According to the World Health Organisation, since the beginning of the epidemic, approximately 79.3 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and an estimated 36.3 million people have died of HIV.

After arriving back in New Zealand from San Fransisco with AIDS, Bruce Burnett campaigned to break down prejudice and raise awareness about the disease.

Burnett died in 1985 but friend, fellow activist and AIDS Foundation co-founder Bill Logan said his work continues to save lives.

"Without him, we would have been a lot worse off. Something like 36 million people died of AIDS around the world, only less than 1000 in New Zealand," said Logan.

Last year, 112 people were diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, the lowest since the late 1990s.

And for the first time since records began, the AIDS Foundation said New Zealand recorded no AIDS-related deaths.

"It represents the culmination of a long decreasing trend from the late 80s through to today and it's a proud milestone," said NZ AIDS Foundation board chair Sam Humphrey.

Humphrey said the work's not over, it's just changing, and that's why the AIDS Foundation is changing its name to Burnett Foundation Aotearoa.

"Yes we do core work, for example, testing for HIV, providing counselling and so on, but we also recognise that there are a whole range of other health factors that can affect communities who are affected by HIV that we need to address too," said Humphrey.

"AIDS has changed, it's only one of many health threats now, and it's passed its time as an AIDS-exclusive organisation. It's got to focus on all the needs of queer people from a health perspective," Logan told Newshub.

Rodrigo Olin has been living with HIV for almost 20 years.

"We have great treatments nowadays allowing us, people living with HIV, to have the same life expectancy as someone who's HIV negative, but what still remains is the stigma and discrimination," he said.

It's hoped Bruce Burnett's legacy will continue to improve health and change attitudes for decades to come.