World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast

  • Speech, check against delivery
Parliament House

Thank you for that introduction. I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I’d like to acknowledge my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, Parliamentary Group Convenors Tim Wilson, Louise Pratt and shadow minister Penny Wong.

My thanks to Simon Marnie and Robert Griew. It’s great to be here again. I see many friends and familiar faces. I see cumulative decades of commitment among all those in the room today who have contributed to the HIV response in Australia and in the region.

Thanks to AFAO for organizing today’s event and for your long standing support and championing of the HIV AIDS response in Australia and internationally.

I’d like to start this morning by talking about the story of Catherine Frank, from Mount Hagen in Papua New Guinea. Catherine was in high school and pregnant when she was diagnosed with HIV.

Scared, needing help, not sure what her diagnosis meant or what she should do to look after her baby, she visited the local Expert Patient Counselling Program — a program run by the Catholic Church Health Services and Anglicare PNG, and funded by the Australian Government.

The staff at the program helped answer Catherine’s questions, and talked to her about how to live with HIV, and the importance of keeping up to date with her treatment.

She is now a proud single mum to a seven-year-old son, supporting her family by selling her garden produce at local markets.

Stories like Catherine’s are a big part of the reason we are here this morning.

The elimination of HIV/AIDS is one of the Government’s most important health priorities in Australia and in the Indo-Pacific region.

There has been considerable progress globally in combatting HIV — in particular, a 55 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths since the peak in 2004.

Still, in our region alone, some 5.9 million people were living with HIV in 2018. There were 310,000 new infections and 200,000 AIDS-related deaths.

We do understand these challenges and we’re deploying Australian resources and capabilities where they are needed most.

The Global Fund is at the frontline of the fight to eliminate HIV and AIDS, and so Australia has increased our funding by 10 per cent to A$242 million for 2020-2022.

That funding has contributed by the end of 2018 to helping save 32 million lives[1].

UNAIDS is also a valued partner. Our work together is focused on reducing new cases and supporting early diagnosis and treatment in the Indo-Pacific region.

And DFAT’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security, an initiative of our Government, is working in our region to strengthen planning, prevention, early detection, and effective responses to infectious diseases. A focus is drug resistance in the Indo-Pacific, including to HIV — which is a problem that significantly affects our nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea.

Australia’s development assistance in Papua New Guinea is supporting better access to antiretroviral therapy for more than 6,000 people living with HIV, and HIV-testing for more than 50,000 people since 2017.[2]

I want to again acknowledge the work of our partners — civil society and international organisation partners in providing frontline services for people with HIV and AIDS, as well as that crucial public advocacy role.

On World AIDS Day, today and on the 1st of December, we reaffirm our commitment to beat this once and for all.

Together, we can ensure our people, communities, countries and region are healthier, safer, more secure and more prosperous.

I appreciate the chance to be here this morning. Possibly like some of you, I am thinking of many friends who have lived with HIV a long time. So in concluding today, let me acknowledge an inspiring friend of mine who left us recently.

It would have been his birthday earlier this month. He inspired me to become involved in AIDS community organisations. Despite our different political views — a Grand Canyon of differences — he encouraged me to follow my political dreams and he challenged me, constantly and charmingly.

To Chris Gration, in your memory, we strive to do more every day.

Thank you.

[1] As of the end of 2018

[2] Data Explorer — 18/11/2019 — 27,725 supported with antiretroviral therapy in 2018. 15,383 had access to HIV testing in 2017.

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