Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Statements by Members
It is just over 30 years since the HIV-AIDS epidemic began in Australia. Between 1984 and mid-1985 there was a 540 per cent increase in cases. My electorate, of course, was one of the worst hit. But the response that was led at that time by our then health minister Neal Blewett made all the difference. There was bipartisan support across the parliament and the work over the next decades of countless activists, researchers, health professionals, non-government organisations and public servants has meant that Australia now has one of the lowest HIV rates in the world. Our parliament thanks all of those who have been involved in this great effort over many decades.
Australia was successful because we put affected communities at the centre of our response to HIV and AIDS. Over the past 30 years we have continued to make great advances not just in treatments but in diagnosis, including the rapid HIV testing that was approved when I was health minister and PrEP, preexposure prophylaxis—the next big step forward in helping drive us to zero new infections. There is still very much to do but, on this World AIDS Day, we want to remember that an AIDS-free generation is possible. It is as possible as the elimination of smallpox and as possible as ending polio.