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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12060

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (7:35 PM) —I rise to speak in the House today on the 20th anniversary of the first commemoration of World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day plays an important role in society. It helps raise awareness worldwide about AIDS issues and the need to support and understand the situation faced by many people who are afflicted with the disease. Although Australia has one of the lowest rates of diagnoses in the developed world, there is a disturbing trend in that the overall number of diagnoses in Australia has increased from 718 in 1999 to more than 1,000 in 2007. This statistic reminds us that we must remain vigilant.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about HIV-AIDS in the Canberra community and about the AIDS Action Council of the ACT and the very important work that it does to support people living with HIV-AIDS in the local community. Every year, 10 Canberrans are diagnosed with HIV. When compared to over 1,000 in Australia and the many thousands worldwide, this appears to be a very small number. However, as the General Manager of the ACT AIDS Action Council, Mr Andrew Burry, said at the weekend, ‘It is 10 too many.’ We must do all we can to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS, and the ACT AIDS Action Council certainly plays an important role in the local community. It provides many services including testing, education, client support, counselling, advocacy and organisational development. They work cooperatively in the community with various stakeholders including the YWCA and SCOPE Youth Service, the Youth Coalition of the ACT, Junction Youth Health Service, Barnados, the Belconnen and Woden youth services, Canberra Sexual Health Centre, ACT Division of General Practice, ACT Health, ACT Queer, and the new Canberra Transgender Network, just to name a few.

Recently the council worked on the corrections-health services plan for the new Alexander Maconochie Centre—the first correctional facility in the ACT. The council worked with the ACT Community Coalition on Corrections and with other agencies to support a proposed needle and syringe program, and with the ACT Hepatitis Resource Centre to develop proposals for development and health promotion programs for staff and residents. This year the council has relaunched a rejuvenated volunteer program. It focuses on best practice, professional development, clearly defined roles and improved communication channels. It also releases a newsletter that gives a voice to other community members and publicises gay, lesbian and transgender sporting groups in the ACT community.

The council is also involved in the international candlelight memorial. The 25th memorial was held on Sunday, 18 May this year. It involved a prayer service held at the All Saints Anglican Church in Ainslie, followed by a second service at the National Museum of Australia in Acton. The theme of the service this year was to remember not only people infected with HIV-AIDS, but also the much wider group of people such as family and friends who are also affected. This year the ACT AIDS Action Council is asking people to focus on the large number of people—around 65,000—who are suffering from HIV-AIDS in Papua New Guinea, our nearest neighbour.

Worldwide, the spread of HIV-AIDS continues to be a major problem. Approximately 33 million are infected, and it kills many millions of people each year, not to mention over half a million children. This truly is a tragic statistic. Australia is committed to help fighting the spread of this infection overseas by spending $1 billion in the 10-year period between 2000 and 2010—and I note that is across two governments. Australia’s commitment includes spending $178 million over the four-year period between 2007 and 2010 in Papua New Guinea; $100 million over eight years, from 2008 to 2015, in Indonesia to combat HIV, focusing on capacity building, prevention and care; $135 million over three years on the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and up to $59 million to support a program across South-East Asia that will concentrate on harm reduction among injecting drug users to prevent the spread of HIV around those communities.

In the few seconds I have left, I want to reflect also on the role that our previous minister Neal Blewett took back in the eighties, when he bravely stepped forward with a radical plan which had bipartisan support and which the public really was very worried about—but without that I do not know that we would be where we are today. The other thing I want to reflect on is young Eve van Grafhorst. There was an article in the paper about this little girl at the weekend, and I read it with great remembrance. In 1985, having been diagnosed with HIV, the little one was shunned by her community here in Australia and her family ended up living in New Zealand. Thank goodness we have come a long way from the days when we did that sort of thing to a person suffering from HIV.