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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23297

Ms GILLARD (2:23 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. On this, World AIDS Day, is the minister aware that for the first time in 20 years rates of HIV infection are on the rise in Australia, with 808 new cases in 2002? Is the minister aware that a typical HIV-AIDS patient in the United States has to spend up to $20,000 per year for medication while in Australia it costs only $700 to $800 per year for the same medication? Minister, under the proposed free trade agreement with the United States, will you rule out any increase in medicine costs to HIV-AIDS patients in Australia and guarantee the costs will not skyrocket to the amount paid in the United States of $20,000 per year?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I can indicate that the Australian government will not agree to anything in the pursuit of the proposed free trade agreement with the United States that will prejudice people's access to affordable pharmaceuticals. We will not use the PBS as a bargaining chip in the free trade negotiations. The other point I would make is that people who are living with HIV-AIDS often do face significant out-of-pocket and out-of-hospital medical expenses. They will be significantly helped and protected by the safety net which this government is going to put in place as part of MedicarePlus.