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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1752

Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of recent reports that have shown a huge projected cost in the United States of America for the treatment and care of acquired immune deficiency syndrome victims? Is the Minister of the opinion that sufficient emphasis has been placed on the role and responsibility the public will have to play in dealing successfully with AIDS? Does the Minister have any plans to run a preventative education campaign to try to prevent a similar outbreak to those being experienced overseas?

Senator GRIMES —The Minister for Health, Dr Blewett, is aware of the huge projected cost of the treatment of AIDS victims as determined by the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta. The costs are indeed startling. Partly they reflect the costs of health care in the United States of America. The Centre believes that the cost will be $US140,000 per patient, excluding the detection and social services programs which will be needed. For instance, after diagnosis AIDS patients require on average 167 days of hospitalisation at an average cost of $US829 per day excluding physician fees, outpatients visits fortnightly at a cost of $US250 to $US300, and home care nursing visits which cost $US65 each. They need Medicare. Investigation costs have not yet been established but they are under active study.

We are very much aware of the need for a public education program, and particularly of the significance of a public education role in preventing the spread of AIDS. Since last November the Minister has announced an allocation of $5.4m to deal with AIDS. About $2m has been paid to the States as a one off payment so that State health authorities can provide information and establish community education, support and counselling services. These services are for the public but they are also targeted on high risk groups. The speed with which the money was made available by the Government and taken up by the States reflects the Commonwealth-State co-operation that exists in dealing with this very serious threat.

The Department of Health and the committees established by the Department have also been talking with high risk groups in the community and they are co-operating in minimising the further spread of the disease. The need for an ongoing education program is recognised by all governments and future funding for AIDS will be shared between the Commonwealth and the States. For 1985-86 the States have put forward proposals for community awareness and education programs which total approximately $1.9m.

We should pay tribute to the work of Professor Penington, all of the members of the AIDS task force, Miss Ita Buttrose and all of the members of the National AIDS Advisory Committee for the bipartisan approach which has been taken. I emphasise that AIDS is very much a public health problem and all public health problems involve public education and public co-operation. As long as we recognise that it is a public health problem and treat it as such-and not treat it, as some would do, as a visitation from on high-I think we will be successful in overcoming many of the problems which faced, for instance, the United States, France and West Germany, which did not have the warning that we had as to the potential problems of this disease.