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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3455

Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (20:10): Burmese patient Aung Naing Do described his experience of tuberculosis in the following terms. He said:

I started suffering from this illness in 2006, so it's taken five years for me to get treatment and overcome it. During that time I had to wait a year from being diagnosed with MDR-TB to getting on the treatment programme. And all that time, I was feeling worse and getting weaker by the day.

I was bedridden towards the end of the wait, coughing all the time and with constant shortness of breath. I couldn't even walk from the clinic to the main road without stopping about ten times. I had to stop work in the hairdressing salon—I didn't have the strength even to sweep the floor.

Aung Naing Do said he had a tattoo on his hand, that means 'perseverance' and got it at a Pagoda festival at the age of just 15. He went on to say:

I had tinnitus, joint pain and stiffness of joints, along with abdominal discomfort and loss of appetite. I felt full all the time, even when I hadn't eaten. Even though I did not want to eat, I forced myself to eat. I forced myself because I knew I needed to have nutritious food. I began to have a noisy song in my right ear that just wouldn't go away. It was so loud, and I still have it now. If I close my left ear, I have trouble hearing. I just kept looking at my tattoo to remind myself of what I had to do and what was required of me. I feel like a much stronger person now.

Stories like these are so common around the world. Tuberculosis is a major killer. It is in fact the most common killer of people with HIV. So tackling tuberculosis is critical in its own right, but also in the fight against AIDS.

I was privileged last June to attend the Partnership Forum of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, held in Sao Paulo in Brazil. I want to thank Bill Bowtell, an Australian, for getting me involved in that event. There I learned a great deal about the global fund's work to fight TB. The global fund is only about a decade old, but it now contributes two-thirds of TB funding worldwide. It is one of the so called vertical funds, which operate by focusing on particular issues in the development space and working to raise awareness and raise resources. But a major challenge for the global fund is striking the right balance on accountability. It turns out that if you want work in the countries that face the greatest disease scourges in the world, they are almost invariably some of the most corrupt countries in the world. The global fund sets high accountability standards, as it should, but it critical that donor countries recognise that working in a disease-ridden environment often means working in a corruption-ridden environment.

I am pleased that there is a bipartisan consensus in this place to raise Australian aid spending to half a per cent of gross national income. I trust that that will continue. It is too easy to take cheap pot shots at aid programs operating in corrupt environments, but to do so is to undermine the very people that we seek to help.

I commend to the House a report from Medecins Sans Frontieres which speaks eloquently about the challenges of tuberculosis, particularly in countries like Burma, where there is prevalence more than double the regional average and nearly three times the global average. The report refers to the importance of investing in ensuring that we tackle tuberculosis in Burma and also notes that the cancellation of round 11 of funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria does limit opportunities to expand treatment for HIV and tuberculosis and its drug resistant forms until 2014. My experience with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria suggests that Australia should continue to increase our contributions to the global fund. We should do so because it is one of the most cost-effective ways of saving lives. Fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is a top priority for Australia. I commend the work of the global fund and I commend the member for Melbourne Ports for bringing this important motion before the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Symon ): There being no further speakers to this motion at this time, the Federation Chamber will suspend proceedings.

Sitting suspended from 20:16 t o 20:19