World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast

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Good morning and thank you Norman forthe introduction.

I acknowledge Senator Penny Wong, myCabinet colleagues Greg Hunt, Simon Birmingham, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wellsand Jane Prentice. In fact, there are so many Members of the Coalition here butalso from the Labor Party, Catherine King, Terri Butler and others, Richard DiNatale. I think the fact there are so many Members of Parliament from all sidesindicates the support there is across the Parliament for this vital work. Inthat regard I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Senator Dean Smithfor his extraordinary advocacy over the last few months in relation to same sexmarriage but also in relation to this issue of HIV/AIDS. So Dean thank you onbehalf of everyone here today for the work you've done in recent months, thankyou.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to behere again to mark World AIDS Day because this continues to be a significantchallenge globally and in our region.

The WHO estimates that 70 million peoplehave been infected with HIV, 35 million have died. This is, and has been, anepidemic of extraordinary proportions but the good news is that progress isbeing made.

If we take the period from 2000 to 2016,the number of new cases has reduced by 39 per cent and that's due to a wholerange of reasons but one major factor is the cost of treatment, and againbetween that period of 2000 to today the cost of anti-retroviral drugs hasfallen from US$10,000 to under US$100, meaning that treatment is available morebroadly, more cheaply, to many more people.

I've always believed that Australia ismost effective in tackling global challenges, and playing our part in tacklingglobal challenges, if we do it in partnership. One partnership which I'mparticularly pleased to be a part is with Global Fund and we have invested $220million into the work of Global Fund in the fight against HIV, TB, malaria, andthrough Australia's advocacy and urging, about $640 million of that Global Fundamount is going to be directed to our region. Australia is contributing $220million, $640 million is coming back to be invested in our region, because thatreally is the frontline in so many instances in the fight against HIV, TB,malaria.

To complement the work that we're doingwith Global Fund I'm pleased to announce today that the Australian Governmentwill enter into a new partnership with UNAIDS specifically on the issue on thefight against HIV - $22.5 million over the next few years to support UNAIDS inits work to increase our ability to fight this epidemic HIV.

Of course it doesn't stop there. We arefocussing on ensuring that our region can be as resilient as possible.

At the last election we announced thatwe would establish a Regional Health Security Strategy. This was in the wake ofcrisis like Ebola but also to focus on whether our regional health systems - thatis the public health systems in countries in our region - were resilient enoughto take up the fight against communicable diseases or were resilient enough toresist any new and emerging epidemic or pandemic and I think you'll agree thereare serious concerns about our regional health security.

True to our word we dedicated $300million to a Regional Health Security Strategy. Part of that is building thecapability of public health departments in countries in our region and we dothat through capacity building of health professionals, working with the healthdepartments of governments in our region. That will include having Australianprofessionals spending time working in those health departments throughout theregion and in this way we will hopefully build the resilience, the capacity ofthose countries, to resist these new and emerging and re-emerging communicablediseases.

As part of that we set up a Indo-PacificCentre for Health Security and this will be a research centre dedicated to new,emerging, re-emerging communicable diseases and infectious disease. I hope inthat way we will certainly add our expertise to this collective approach to dowhat we can to eradicate or treat these diseases. There are also so many otherinitiatives across Government where we are supporting and complementing thework that we do directly on the fight against HIV.

For example, through our AustralianVolunteers for International Development program, we have Australian volunteersworking, for example, in Nepal. Stephen Mussig one of our volunteers is workingwith a Nepalese NGO on treating people with HIV in Nepal.

I'm sure you're all aware of our NewColombo Plan. This is an Australian Government initiative giving theopportunity to undergraduates in all of our universities to live and study andwork in numerous disciplines in 40 locations throughout the Indo-Pacific andthey can be studying and working in law or business or tourism or architecture,you name it. A number of our students are in fact working in the health fieldand specifically in relation to HIV/AIDS. One great example, one great casestudy is Cecilia Prowd, a Monash University student who has won a New ColomboPlan Scholarship to work on HIV research in Thailand.

Across Government initiatives, acrossprograms in our overseas development assistance, we are focusing on supportingthe fight against HIV.

Our near and dear neighbour, PNG, has aparticularly high incidence of HIV. In fact, it affects something like 0.9 percent of the population compared with less than 0.2 per cent here in Australia –something like 46,000 people in PNG are living with HIV. We are working closelywith the PNG Government to build the capacity of their Health Department. It'salso gratifying to see the work of NGOs and some great case studies. CatholicChurch Health Services are providing support to about 40 per cent of those withHIV in PNG and one of their clinics St Joseph in a suburb of Port Moresby isproviding testing, counselling and treatment services all at the same place,which in PNG is very important given the geographic challenges. NGOs,governments are working together to ensure that we can assist those living withaids and we can assist those and to ensure that the infection doesn't increasearound the world.

Just on one final note, I've been handedan invitation to the International AIDS Conference to be held in Amsterdam inJuly next year, 2018, and it was rather a poignant moment to receive that becauseI well remember the 2014 Conference to be held in Melbourne. So many of thedelegates and participants in that conference were all on the MH17, theMalaysian Airlines flight to take them from Amsterdam to Melbourne, which ofcourse was brought down over Ukraine and all of the passengers and crew onboard were killed. That was a deeply tragic moment for us all but particularlyfor the AIDS community and researchers who had dedicated their lives to thiscause.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is important thateach year we mark World AIDS Day. I'm pleased that the Australian Governmenthas continued to support this cause and now I look forward to our newpartnership with UNAIDS, on top of the work that we're doing to complement whatis a bipartisan effort in the Australian Parliament and most certainly a causethat we will uphold for years to come until we can say that there is no longera need for World AIDS Day.

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