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Monday, 2 December 2013
Page: 1319


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (11:56): I take great pleasure in rising to support the motion of the member for Higgins. It is a motion that is particularly important at this time of the year. Yesterday was World AIDS Day, and every year this parliament needs to remember World AIDS Day and to talk about the significance of that day and make a pledge to work towards coming up with a cure for, or some form of vaccine against, AIDS.

Here are a few facts. HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, and it has claimed the lives of 36 million people worldwide. That is a phenomenal number of people that have succumbed to AIDS. Approximately 35.3 million people were living with AIDS in 2012, and I am sure most members would know people within their own electorates who are living with AIDS.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with nearly one in every 20 adults living with HIV—69 per cent of all people living with HIV are in this region. In 2008 I visited South Africa, and when I was there I met with a woman with a young family who was living with AIDS. She told us about how she had gone to the brink: of how she had nearly died. She had been in a facility, and was put in a little room—just put there to die. She was stigmatised by everybody who lived in her township. It was only because she received some care and some drugs that she was given back her life. She had a young child. This young child had the vision of playing soccer for South Africa, and his chances of being able to achieve that were much greater when he had his mother there to support him.

I also met with a young family who had lost their mother and their father to AIDS. They had a memory box, and in it were the only mementos they had of their parents. The family had the support of the township they lived in, but the eldest child was actually looking after the family and keeping it together. It is only by visiting a place like that that you can understand the magnitude of the impact that AIDS has had on real people's lives. We read about it, we hear about it, but when you are in that environment you see the stigmatisation that is directed towards those people that are living with AIDS, you see the challenges they face each and every day, you see the enormity of the loss of lives and you can really understand how it has impacted on those communities.

As we all know, AIDS has now been around since the early eighties. In Australia I think we probably had one of the best campaigns at the time with the Grim Reaper campaign. That was put in place as a shock tactic to raise awareness within the community of the dangers of HIV and the way it was contacted, It was trying to stop those risky behaviours that would then lead to a reduction in the number of cases of HIV.

By December last year there had been 34,029 cases of HIV diagnosed in Australia since 1982 and more than 25,700 people living with HIV in Australia. The majority of these are men. Paul O'Grady, who was a member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales, was one of the first people diagnosed with HIV back in the early eighties. He became terribly ill in the mid to late 1990s and resigned from the Legislative Council. Then he started using the retroviral drugs and that has enabled him to live a longer life and enjoy a good quality of life. There are times when he is more unwell than others.

It has impacted on many people and has impacted on many families. It has actually impacted on my own family. My sister-in-law and her husband both died from AIDS back in the early 1990s. The husband contracted AIDS and then transferred it to my sister-in-law. He was diagnosed very late at the time when HIV was becoming more widely diagnosed. He died fairly quickly. My sister-in-law was diagnosed after his death. Luckily, their four children were free of the virus. She died after a struggle of a couple of years. During that time she felt terribly stigmatised by the fact that she had AIDS. She was embarrassed about it. I read some of the things she wrote about going to the dentist and the way that she was treated on those occasions.

I think our society has moved on since that time but there is still stigma associated with HIV. So World AIDS Day is a time that is very important to me and I always think of my sister-in-law at that time. What I would like to emphasise is the fact that I am very worried that the number of people being diagnosed with HIV has increased in recent times. Even though we have had those campaigns, even though people understand how HIV is contracted, here in Australia there were 1,200 new cases in 2012—which is a 20 per cent increase. The biggest increase has been among gay men under the age of 25. These are young men who were not exposed to the campaign back in the eighties. These are young men who do not understand the significance of it, and complacency has developed around it. I think that we need to get out there in our own electorates and through the arms of government, raise awareness and start getting the message out there again how HIV is contracted and look at ways to address this issue.

There have been some really positive signs in recent times about some of the research that is taking place, and hopefully that will lead to a vaccination or a cure. I think this is a really important time. The conference that is going to be held in Melbourne next year will be a time when a lot of the new treatments and new approaches will be explored. I congratulate the member for bringing this to the parliament and I encourage all members to realise just how significant this motion is. Thank you.