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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12062

Mr IRONS (7:40 PM) —I rise this evening to discuss World AIDS Day. Today marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. It is now viewed as one of the most successful commemorative days internationally, with more than 190 countries, including Australia, acknowledging this initiative. World AIDS Day is an international health initiative aiming to raise awareness of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, caused by the spread of HIV. This initiative was originated in 1988 by the World Health Organisation and has developed over time. It has continued to be a necessity due to the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS. In 2007 it was calculated that 33 million people were living with HIV, with 2.7 million newly affected. The AIDS disease has killed 25 million people worldwide since 1981. The campaign follows annual themes under the wider theme of, ‘Stop AIDS—keep the promise,’ which is active until 2010. This year’s theme is continued from 2007, focusing on leadership as its main objective. Self-responsibility and activism are also clear themes for the initiative.

World AIDS Day recognises that it is necessary to not only aid and assist the most crippled countries but also prevent the increase of AIDS in countries with lower prevalence rates. The number of people living with HIV has risen from approximately eight million in 1990 to 33 million in 2007 and is currently on the rise, according to a report published by UNAIDS and the WHO. Fifty per cent of those living with HIV-AIDS are women. It is concerning that young people under 25 account for half of the world’s new HIV infections, highlighting the need for continual education to prevent the conditions and support those who have contracted HIV-AIDS. It is not uncommon for those suffering from HIV or AIDS to be subjected to much social scrutiny in many different cultures due to the lack of understanding of how the infection is contracted and the historical stigma attached to it. To reduce this stigma and scrutiny, the stereotype of an HIV-AIDS carrier needs to be broken down. Often, to break down a stereotype that results in discrimination, a greater understanding of the infection is needed, and this can be achieved through increased education. This is where days like today are important in continually encouraging education.

It is a well-recognised fact that Third World countries, in particular in Africa, are the most highly affected by the AIDS pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest total of people living with HIV or AIDS, totalling 22 million in the 2007 statistics. In saying that, I say that it is important to talk about our own HIV-AIDS issues here in Australia. By the end of 2007, Australians living with HIV accumulated to a total of 16,692. Although the AIDS incidence in Australia, much as in Canada and the UK, is much less than in non-developed countries, it is still on the rise. AIDS causes much destruction not only to the sufferer but also to their family and friends. Australia has experienced 6,709 deaths caused by AIDS. Australia is using the slogan: ‘Enjoy life. Take control. Stop HIV-AIDS.’ This theme empowers people to be responsible and make decisions to maximise their control of the outcome.

Australians, like people in many industrial countries, view the HIV-AIDS problem as something specific to Third World countries such as in Africa, where its prevalence is highest. Within Australia, it is necessary to note that there are varying incidences within the different states and capitals. In proportion to the population size, New South Wales has the highest incidence of HIV diagnosis—214 people per 100,000. Victoria is the second highest, with a rate of 110.4, and the Australian Capital Territory incidence is also quite high, with a total of 87.1. Rates in Queensland at 73.4, the Northern Territory at 72.9, Western Australia at 69.1 and South Australia at 66 were similar. In contrast, Tasmania has the lowest rate of HIV diagnosis—24.1. These figures highlight which areas of Australia and the world are affected by AIDS.

On World AIDS Day I think it is appropriate to talk about the significant cut in Papua New Guinea’s 2009 AIDS budget. A report from AusAID highlighted that two per cent of PNG’s population is infected with HIV-AIDS. An Age article today stated that there are relevant fears that by 2025 more than 50,000 people will be infected with HIV in the region. The Papua New Guinea government has cut the budget by 25.1 million kina, which is equivalent to A$15 million. This cut will not affect the Australian funding given to tackle the AIDS epidemic, with a sum of $100 million expected to change hands over the five-year program—although, due to the current economic situation, the funding package is now reduced by 30 per cent.

In concluding, I say that it is important that the topic of current and future challenges be brought up. It is necessary to highlight that there is a lack of adequate treatment in poor countries, along with the unlikelihood of finding a vaccine at any time soon. Medication used to manage HIV in Africa is not affordable or readily available for those infected. It is not surprising that AIDS orphans in Africa number 11.6 million.