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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12352

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (21:25): Thank you, Madam Speaker, and may I wish you a happy birthday for yesterday.

I would like to speak about what I think is one of the great health tragedies of our time, and that is the subject of HIV/AIDS. In July this year the 20th International AIDS Conference was held in Melbourne. Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, called for a new target known as 90-90-90: that 90 per cent of people with HIV should be tested, that 90 per cent of people living with HIV should be on treatment and that 90 per cent of people on treatment should have a suppressed viral load for HIV.

When we look at the AIDS response, there is some good news there. The AIDS response has averted 10 million new infections since 2002. It has avoided more than seven million deaths, and 14 million people are now on life-saving HIV treatment. So Michel Sidibe has set the ambitious goal to scale up fast by 2020. He believes that, with that, the world should be on track to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. That means bringing the epidemic under control.

I was lucky to go on a parliamentary delegation to Southern Africa in August. When you look at the prevalence rates in Southern Africa—this is population-wide—they are the highest in the world. Swaziland has a prevalence rate of 26 per cent, Botswana 23.4 per cent, Lesotho 23.3 per cent, South Africa 18.1 per cent with 5.6 million people living with HIV and Zimbabwe 14.9 per cent and 1.2 million people living with HIV. One of my mentors and the Dean of Health Sciences at Flinders University, Michael Kidd, the President of the World Organization of Family Doctors and someone who is also locally the chair of the government Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections, has gone over and been involved in setting up a testing program in Limpopo Province in South Africa. This is a demonstration that, when we consider HIV/AIDS in Australia, we see it very differently to how it really is in Southern Africa.

I had the opportunity in Harare to see the Harare Children's Hospital, and there the Australian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Matthew Neuhaus, and his wife, Angela Neuhaus, were very interested in making small improvements. There had been a small contribution made for an incubator for the children's hospital. It was $12,000. They sent nurses down to Cape Town to train them up, and it means they now have four incubators, which means that premature babies can live. They also see that doctors and senior nurses are able to access the diploma of children's health and the international postgraduate paediatrics certificate from the Children's Hospital at Westmead. That is available for them to do online. I learnt there that the use of antiretroviral drugs in Zimbabwe has now largely prevented maternal-to-child transmission, which they used to see. It was just heart-rending to see children with established AIDS.

We visited KwaZulu-Natal and a hospital which I had volunteered in 25 years ago. When I was there 25 years ago, the prevalence rate of HIV was less than one per cent. We had three AIDS patients. The first case had been diagnosed in 1986. Now, amongst their maternal population they see between 34 and 40 per cent of women presenting there HIV positive. But we did see the importance of leadership at a local level. Mrs Philile Khumalo and Dr Kelly Gate, who has been recognised as the South African Rural Doctor of the Year, are really making a difference scaling up their treatment program and making sure that as many people as possible are receiving the antiretroviral treatment. We received a great welcome.

It is a very different health system from ours. They are having to almost reinvent the primary healthcare system, making sure that people get good primary health care. They are also looking for more mobile health clinics to go visit their remote communities. They cost about $100,000 to $110,000 and make a real difference in this community.

When you look at the issue, you see that national leadership has been important. Uganda, Brazil and Thailand all show that. They actually had national leadership which addressed HIV/AIDS. You also see local leadership—examples like Mrs Khumalo and Dr Kelly Gate—who are making a real difference in their communities.

The SPEAKER: It being 9:30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 21 : 30