House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020


World AIDS Day

10:26 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

(1) notes that:

  (a) Tuesday, 1 December 2020 is World AIDS Day, an annual day to acknowledge those we have lost to AIDS related conditions and those who are living with HIV;

  (b) the theme for World AIDS Day 2020 is ‘Now More Than Ever’;

  (c) the stigma associated with HIV acts as a barrier to treatment and prevention;

  (d) action is needed to address rising HIV transmission among First Nations, trans and gender diverse people, and other emerging high-risk population groups;

  (e) gay and bisexual men continue to bear the burden of Australia’s HIV epidemic and ongoing health education and awareness among this population group is needed; and

  (f) further bipartisan political action and leadership is required to meet our national target of ending HIV transmission in Australia; and

(2) recognises and acknowledges the:

  (a) journey that people have made through their diagnosis, treatment and experiences of living with HIV;

  (b) tremendous efforts of peer educators, healthcare professionals, researchers and scientists in developing treatment and prevention regimes that have improved the lives of people living with HIV and prevented a generalised epidemic in Australia;

  (c) success of a bipartisan approach in Australia’s health response; and

  (d) tireless community advocates, civil society organisations and support groups that actively tackle stigma associated with HIV.

Every year on 1 December we celebrate and recognise World AIDS Day, which is obviously a day that we would all rather not have to celebrate and recognise, but it's an opportunity to recognise those people all around the world who have HIV and to raise awareness about the challenges facing those with HIV and AIDS—in the past, today and in the future. World AIDS Day is a day for people to show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

This year we celebrate World AIDS Day under the banner of Now More Than Ever because it's an opportunity to end the stigma, support treatment and get to zero transmissions. Unlike other countries, Australia has a very proud record. We have had a bipartisan spirit to combatting the spread of HIV from the outset, and the outcomes are very clear. At the end of 2018 Australia had an estimated 28,180 people living with HIV infection, representing 0.14 per cent prevalence overall as a proportion of Australians living with HIV. Of course, we have continued to roll out important and critical programs since the very onset of HIV in the 1980s to stop transmission, whether it's needle exchanges, access to vital or critical medicines and, more recently, medicines that enable people to engage in safe sexual practices. There were 833 HIV notifications in Australia in 2018, the lowest number of notifications since 2001, with a 23 per cent decline over the last five years and a 13 per cent decline between 2017 and 2018. Of those, an estimated 90 per cent were diagnosed. And, of those, 96 per cent were retained in care and 89 per cent were receiving antiretroviral therapy. And, of those receiving antiretroviral therapy, 95 per cent had a suppressed viral load, a clear reminder that one of the biggest and most important things to reduce the risk of transmission is to know your status.

Australia's HIV epidemic continues to be predominately in men who have sex with men, and recent declines in HIV notifications have been attributed to fewer new diagnoses in this critical group. But they are not alone, of course. Among those who inject drugs, there has been a very low prevalence of HIV as a result of a highly successful harm reduction strategy for many years now. There remain some challenges, particularly in the context of making sure there isn't transmission among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and among foreign students living in Australia, who may not have access to all medications.

This Morrison government has made it a continuing priority to make sure that there is proper resourcing available for the many community organisations and health groups to continue to fight transmission. On World AIDS Day 2019, additional ongoing support of $2.9 million in 2020-21 was provided to support the national peak organisation to assist priority populations and healthcare professionals in response to bloodborne viruses and STIs.

The National HIV Strategy notes that access to HIV treatments for Medicare-ineligible people is an important action to reach priority populations and reduce transmissions every day. That's why, under this Minister for Health, we have continued to list new medications and provide more access and treatment options for Australians to reduce the risk of transmission to others and to themselves. The National HIV Strategy provides a framework for the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments, coordinated with a national response, to address HIV in Australia. And we can get to an Australia that has virtually eliminated HIV, but we can't do so in isolation as a government; we can do it with the work of so many community organisations, led by groups like the National Association of People with HIV, and the Federation of AIDS Organisations. All of these community groups, supported by, importantly, healthcare workers, provide assistance and support to those in need and make sure that we can reduce the risk and achieve virtually zero transmission.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:31 am

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. I'd like to thank the member for Goldstein for moving this motion. I would like to recognise that tomorrow is World AIDS Day and I'd like to acknowledge and give my thoughts to all those that we have lost from AIDS related conditions and also those who are living with HIV. The theme for World AIDS Day this year is Now More Than Ever, and this is vitally important. It's important to acknowledge that Australia has done remarkably well. I'd like to acknowledge some of the leaders in this field in Australia: Professor Ron Penny; and Professor David Cooper, from the Kirby Institute, who passed away earlier this year. I acknowledge their efforts to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS related conditions.

I don't want my speech to be a history lesson in particular, but I was a registrar in the early 1980s and I well remember the fear about what was happening. In this pandemic year, it's important to remember that we went through very similar public health concerns with HIV in the early eighties, and our response to HIV-AIDS taught us many things that were put into practice in this pandemic year. The first thing that the HIV epidemic taught us was that science is important—that we must listen to the scientists. It also taught us that we can all come together in a public health campaign and work for the common good. The third thing it taught us is that politicians are indeed capable of working together for the common good. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge Peter Baum, the Liberal government's health minister in 1982; and Neal Blewett, who was the Hawke Labor government's health minister in 1983, and what they did to raise awareness and promote the public health campaigns in the early eighties that enabled Australia's response to be so good. Really, we have done remarkably well. Now more than ever, we need to concentrate on preventing transmission, on better treatments and on the Holy Grail: an immunisation for HIV. Australia will continue to do well as long as we remember this.

I'd like to congratulate all those who work in the field of HIV prevention. We know that there are still many people—over 28,000 in Australia—living with HIV. But that's the point: people now live with HIV rather than die with HIV. I well remember the children with haemophilia, thalassaemia and other blood related conditions, and indeed those with leukaemia, who received multiple transmissions and who succumbed to HIV in the early eighties, many of whom I cared for in my time at the children's hospital. I remember Eve van Grafhorst, a little baby who developed AIDS following transmission as a neonate, and the stigma that was attached to her infection and actually drove her from Australia.

We need to remember the past if we are going to progress in the future. We must remove our own inhibitions and our own fears and constraints in continuing this very important public health campaign. In particular, I congratulate the New South Wales government and eventually the federal government for supporting PrEP treatment for those at risk of HIV and for their continuing efforts in HIV education and prevention of transmission. We should also thank those that work internationally, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to prevent infectious diseases in countries with poor public health facilities. Australia is a key partner in supporting the global fund to prevent HIV transmission in our near neighbours. We need continued, sustained funding from the Commonwealth government. I commend this motion to the parliament, and I thank the member for Goldstein for bringing it to us, but the fight goes on until we have zero HIV transmission. Thank you.

10:37 am

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tomorrow, on 1 December, we will mark World AIDS Day, to raise awareness of the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS as well as to pay tribute to those who have tragically lost their lives to AIDS related conditions. The national World AIDS Day theme for 2020 is 'Now More Than Ever'. The success of antiretroviral drugs and extremely low HIV-to-AIDS progression rates make it easy to forget the devastating scar that the HIV-AIDS epidemic left on Australian society not so long ago. We remember those who lost their lives as a result of contracting HIV, and we continue to work to reduce the rate of transmission and risk for others. In many communities across our country, HIV and AIDS continue to be a source of great pain, tragedy and discrimination. The issues and stigma associated with HIV and AIDS remain a present problem to be addressed. Now more than ever, we do need to better educate ourselves and our communities about HIV, take action to reduce the transmission and ensure support for those living with the condition.

There were 833 HIV notifications in Australia in 2018, the lowest number of notifications since 2001. An estimated 90 per cent were diagnosed. In addition to this, 77 per cent of people living with HIV in Australia achieved a suppressed viral load. This is the first time Australia has reached the UNAIDS 2020 target of 73 per cent. These statistics are promising, and they paint a picture of progress. There has been a decrease in new transmissions and decreased stigma surrounding HIV, so more people feel that they can be tested and seek treatment.

Recent declines in HIV notifications have been attributed to fewer diagnoses in the gay and bisexual men community, and I'd like to commend the LGBTQIA community leaders and organisations that have worked tirelessly to advocate, to educate and to raise awareness of HIV. Their work has ensured that there are fewer barriers to treatment and less risk of transmission. It's good news that HIV prevalence continues to be very low among those who inject drugs as a result of highly successful harm-reduction strategies. The incidence of HIV among women involved in sex work is extremely low due to the successful promotion and adoption of safer sex practices, and lower rates of maternal transmission have been achieved through comprehensive medical interventions.

While this hard-won progress gives us optimism, the coalition government is committed to seeing HIV eliminated in Australia. Further action is needed to address the rising HIV transmission among our First Nations people, trans and gender diverse people and other emerging high-risk groups. Sadly, there has not been a decrease in HIV notifications among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or people acquiring HIV through heterosexual sex. The Morrison government will continue its work to reduce and eliminate the transmission of HIV. In the 2019-20 budget, $45.4 million was allocated over three years to implement Australia's five national bloodborne viruses and STI strategies. The strategies were developed in partnership with state and territory health departments, non-government organisations, affected communities, research organisations and medical professionals in a cooperative approach to address HIV. It is important that our strategies to eliminate HIV put evidence based practices and people at the centre. As we mark World AIDS Day tomorrow, it is my hope that all Australians look to the significant progress made in our fight to eliminate HIV and AIDS to inspire ongoing research and advocacy.

10:42 am

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very pleased today to rise and speak in support of such an important motion as we mark World AIDS Day, and I thank the member for Goldstein for bringing it to the attention of the House. It's almost 40 years since the first case of HIV-AIDS in Australia was recorded in Sydney. It was around this time—in October of 1982—as the summer drew closer and the weather grew warmer and everyone prepared for that inevitable wind-down and to spend time with friends and family over the holidays. They weren't to know that a spectre was looming over the gay community in Australia at that time—one that would devastate friends and loved ones for decades to come. What we now call HIV-AIDS had been first reported in the United States a year earlier, but no-one knew what it was, let alone what caused it or how to treat it. There were many names for it and many of them attached a stigma to the gay community and to gay men, in particular: gay related immune deficiency, or GRID; or just the 'gay plague' were common references at the time. If you talk to a member of the community or even a friend or loved one who lived through the epidemic, they will tell you of the unimaginable terror and dread that permeated in these dark times. They'll tell you of the fear that came from living in a world where you woke up every day wondering who in your community would be next and whether this would be the last time that you saw someone that you loved.

Now, of course, HIV-AIDS is not the death sentence it was in those times. While we don't have a cure or, indeed, a vaccine, we have made significant progress in the fight against HIV-AIDS. We have powerful antiretroviral medication to treat it and we have the latest advancement in PrEP, which has been supported by state governments in Victoria and New South Wales—truly a remarkable drug that has taken a lot of fear out of the community. But the journey wasn't easy, and we didn't get there overnight. Treating HIV-AIDS with the limited knowledge available at the time wasn't popular or even something that some doctors were willing to do. Out of fear, many HIV-AIDS patients were turned away from doctor's surgeries and hospitals.

The homophobia directed towards gay men in this period, even those who hadn't been diagnosed with HIV-AIDS, was a barrier to treatment and progress in fighting the disease. My family experienced this hate and suffering firsthand, and we, along with many others who experienced it, carry the scars of this period with us to this day—scars that will never quite heal. It was only the actions of a small group of people who refused to bow to this prejudice, who focused on the science and the medicine rather than the fear, that provided the hope and the will to find a way out of the crisis. The activists, particularly in the gay community, who stood up and said, 'This isn't right', tirelessly campaigned, despite the stigma, for government to listen to the experts and campaigned to educate the community. It's these people that I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to today.

Two people in particular were the shining light of the health response: Neal Blewett, the health minister at the time in the Hawke government; and Bill Bowtell, his adviser. It was Blewett who, on the advice of Bowtell, established the National Advisory Committee on AIDS and adopted an approach which was radical for the times—listening to those most immediately affected by the disease and giving them a say in policymaking on HIV-AIDS.

Blewett and Bowtell faced significant opposition to this approach. Bowtell writes in a brief account:

We were told promoting the rights (and responsibilities) of those with HIV/AIDS was irresponsible and would accelerate the spread of the virus. But it turned out that the reverse was true.

He went on to say:

… importantly, a new model for dealing with other diseases was created, and shown to work outstandingly well. It is a legacy of which we can all be proud.

As Bowtell said of Australia's response: 'It was bold, radical and right.' It's a response that has gone on to become a leading model for how we fight pandemics around the world.

An inspiring story of the time is that of Sister Angela Mary Doyle, of the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland. In defiance of the Bjelke-Petersen government, Sister Angela Mary Doyle secretly funnelled federal government money to the Queensland AIDS Council through the Mater Hospital. For this, Neal Blewett labelled the Sisters of Mercy 'the most altruistic of money launderers'. It was acts of courage, empathy and community like this in a time when fear and uncertainty divided many in our community that helped us get through to the other side.

So it is that we find ourselves marking World AIDS Day at the end of 2020—a year that has seen us grappling with a different health crisis that has also seen some seek to divide our community. Again we have turned to experts like Dr Bill Bowtell AO, now an adjunct professor at UNSW's Kirby Institute, to guide us with a response that is no longer radical, just bold and right—one based not on fear but on sound health principles. As we approach 40 years since the first HIV-AIDS case was reported we can't be complacent. The global death toll from AIDS related illnesses now stands at 32.7 million. We must continue HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention campaigns both in Australia and globally, particularly amongst our First Nations people. In our region, where there were 300,000 new HIV infections last year, we must continue to provide support in the form of foreign aid to our neighbours. The job is not over. We must come together to continue the work on both sides of politics to end HIV transmission in Australia.

10:47 am

Photo of Dave SharmaDave Sharma (Wentworth, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On World AIDS Day tomorrow, Tuesday 1 December, we stand in solidarity with the people in Australia and around the world living with HIV and AIDS. As we recommit ourselves to ending this epidemic we also remember the friends and loved ones we've lost along the way. We also recall the tremendous efforts of peer educators, healthcare professionals, researchers and scientists in developing treatment and prevention regimes which have drastically improved the lives of people living with HIV. Thankfully, due to the availability of antiretroviral therapy, HIV is now in most cases a manageable chronic condition rather than a fatal diagnosis. However, there remains significant work to be done to end the stigma that too many people living with HIV still face and to ensure that everyone can get the care they deserve. Of the 38 million people worldwide living with HIV, only 25.4 million are accessing antiretroviral therapy—accounting for only 67 per cent of people living with HIV.

It has been a difficult year in 2020, with all of us confronted with the harsh realities of illness in one way or another. The COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic of another communicable disease, has had a devastating impact on global health security. Whilst the global death toll from COVID-19 now stands at around 1.4 million, the imminence of vaccines means that an end to this communicable disease is now in sight. The other significant communicable disease, HIV-AIDS, still kills some 950,000 people each and every year, year after year, with a global death toll of around 32 million. That's why this year's theme of World AIDS Day is now more than ever a call to refocus our work alongside the risks of COVID-19.

As the UNAIDS 2020 report, Seizing the moment, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic could delay progress to meet international targets by up to a decade—a worrying forecast if we are to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 as we hope. However, with the right focus and the right resources the virtual elimination of HIV is within our reach, with the number of new diagnoses progressively declining to its lowest level in nearly 20 years. Nonetheless, our work is far from complete. We are not seeing a decline in the rates of transmission amongst First Nations people, trans and gender diverse people and other emerging high-risk population groups. These communities are part of the solution to reducing transmission, and we must develop innovative solutions to reach these populations. This also means implementing services aimed at populations who find it difficult to interact with our healthcare system, such as those living in Australia who do not have access to Medicare. In Australia, in particular, gay and bisexual men continue to bear the burden of Australia's HIV epidemic, and ongoing health education and awareness among this population group is needed.

Globally, COVID-19 has underscored how vital it is that Australia support our friends in the Pacific towards their goals of eliminating transmission of HIV-AIDS. Almost six million people live with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region and, with COVID-19 threatening access to healthcare services, it's more important than ever that we protect the health and prosperity of our region. Australia is working closely with longstanding partners like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNAIDS to invest in HIV prevention the Indo-Pacific.

This year's theme also reminds us of the importance of community, from providing supportive networks to ensure that no-one is left behind to encouraging people to get tested and connecting them with treatment. Advocates and grassroots organisations change lives for the better, offering invaluable peer-to-peer education while fighting for sustainable and reliable services for people living with HIV.

Australia's bipartisan approach to tackling this health issue has been impressive and instrumental in the fight against HIV-AIDS, I commend the work of the Parliamentary Friends for Action on HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections and its chairs, Tim Wilson, the member for Goldstein; and Senator Louise Pratt, for their efforts in bringing this to the forefront of public consciousness. This issue is bigger than politics and it will take efforts from all sides of politics to see meaningful improvement. I encourage everyone to raise awareness about HIV-AIDS and challenge the misconceptions that lead to stigma. Together we can end this global epidemic and ensure that everyone has the care and support they need to live full and healthy lives.

10:51 am

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to speak in support of this motion and congratulate the member for Goldstein for moving it. HIV does not discriminate; people do. As UNAIDS has said:

Stigma and discrimination will continue to exist so long as societies as a whole continue to judge people with HIV.

And it could be said that stigma and discrimination will continue to exist so long as societies as a whole continue to judge anyone who is different.

As speakers before me have said, Australia was at the forefront of a bold, innovative public health approach to combating HIV-AIDS. As someone who grew up in the eighties, I remember, even as a young girl in country New South Wales, the fear that society had about people who had HIV-AIDS and I remember the public health campaigns telling people that it could happen to anyone and it wasn't just gay men who were susceptible to catching HIV and developing AIDS. We are rightly proud in Australia of the fact that we took the advice of scientists, we took the advice of people living with the fear and living with the risk of catching the disease and we devised a public health strategy.

Australia's national theme for World AIDS Day 2020 is Now More Than Ever. Now more than ever, we need to continue to focus on the science, to listen to the advocates and to make sure that we continue to work to eliminate stigma and discrimination and that we don't take our eye off the ultimate goal, and that is eliminating HIV-AIDS from society. UNAIDS's theme for World AIDS Day 2020 is Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility. It's a theme that really reflects 2020 as a whole. UNAIDS leads the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat and has a goal of doing so by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The idea is to stop new infections; to make sure that everyone living with HIV has access to HIV treatment; and to protect and promote human rights, because fundamental to the public health approach started in the eighties and continuing today is an acknowledgement of human rights—people's right to access health care, no matter who they are or where they live. UNAIDS also focuses on producing data for decision-making because, as I've said, HIV can affect anyone.

UNAIDS has an approach of prevailing against pandemics by putting people at the centre. We've seen how that approach has also been adopted in dealing with COVID-19 in many—not all, but many—countries around the world, putting people at the centre, putting public health at the centre of a response. So UNAIDS is calling on countries to make greater investments in global pandemic responses and to adopt a new set of bold, ambitious but achievable HIV targets. I hark back to the fact that Australia took a bold and ambitious public health approach in the 1980s with the advice of Bill Bowtell AO, who is still out there pushing scientific responses to epidemics. That's the approach that UNAIDS is calling on countries to do now. It wants us to set targets and then work to meet those targets.

Winnie Byanyima, the executive director of UNAIDS, has said:

The collective failure to invest sufficiently in comprehensive, rights-based, people-centred HIV responses has come at a terrible price … Implementing just the most politically palatable programmes will not turn the tide against COVID-19 or end AIDS. To get the global response back on track will require putting people first and tackling the inequalities on which epidemics thrive.

We have seen in Australia that COVID-19 has thrived on inequality. We must continue to listen to scientists, to put people at the heart of public health campaigns, to believe in and support human rights and to end inequalities. That is the formula for dealing with issues such as HIV and COVID-19.

10:56 am

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tomorrow, 1 December, is World AIDS Day, an annual day to acknowledge those we've lost to AIDS related conditions and those who are living with HIV. The theme for World AIDS Day 2020 is 'Now More Than Ever'. Since the first HIV diagnosis in Australia more than 30 years ago, our understanding around prevention, transmission and treatment of HIV has improved dramatically. But, despite the investment resulting in extraordinary advances in all of these areas, there is still more to do. As we fight to wrestle this terrible disease into extinction, now more than ever we need to ensure that the advances we have achieved are not lost. Now more than ever we need to ensure that those who need treatment can get it. Now more than ever we need to ensure that those who are at risk of disease take steps to prevent getting it. Now more than ever we must protect against the stigma that still exists within our communities to help save lives and to help protect lives.

Higgins is vibrant and diverse, and we have communities that include many from the LGBTQI+ community. I am proud to represent them all. I work with many LGBTQI+ community groups, including great advocacy groups like Thorne Harbour Health. I'm proud to be a member of Liberal Pride. Higgins is also home to world-leading HIV-AIDS research. Professor Sharon Lewin, the director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, and also a local constituent, has been a leader in HIV-AIDS research. She leads a multidisciplinary research team working on mechanisms of HIV latency, clinical trials, advancing potential HIV cure strategies, and how HIV is affected by co-infections such as hepatitis B. She was central to bringing the International AIDS Conference to Melbourne in 2014 and was local co-chair. I'd like to also acknowledge the hard work of Professor Brendan Crabb AC, the director of the Burnet Institute, which is on the border of my electorate of Higgins. The Burnet's world-class sentinel surveillance system, ACCESS, is now rolled out across states and territories and is being used to monitor HIV related outcomes during the COVID pandemic.

At the end of 2018, 28,000 people were living with HIV infection in Australia. In the same year, there were 833 new HIV notifications, the lowest number since 2001. Of those diagnosed with HIV, 96 per cent were receiving care and 89 per cent were receiving retroviral therapy. Most importantly, 95 per cent of those receiving therapy had a suppressed viral load. This means that Australia has comfortably reached the UNAIDS' 2020 target that more than 73 per cent of those living with HIV have a suppressed viral load. This is an immense achievement that this country should be proud of.

We should also be proud of the PBS access to preventive treatment called pre-exposure prophylaxis—commonly known as PrEP—that we provide to people at medium to high risk of HIV infection. By listing PrEP on the PBS, 32,000 Australians are subsidised each year. Without this subsidy, they would pay $2,500 a year, a cost that would be beyond the capability of many young patients.

HIV can be a sensitive topic for many. So many in the LGBTI community have faced years of homophobia and inaccurate information regarding the risk of developing HIV and AIDS. It can be a topic some don't want to openly talk about. In 2020 a national survey of men who have sex with men found that 21 per cent of participants reported feeling stigmatised within the past year by other people assuming they had HIV. Another survey of the Australian public found 30 per cent of participants reported they behaved negatively towards people living with HIV. This shouldn't be happening. There should be no shame. That's why we need to talk about AIDS openly.

We are fortunate to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. As a government we are fortunate to have the trust and respect of the Australian public as we seek to keep us all safe from emerging health threats. After all, now more than ever we all need to work together to help prevent and treat AIDS.

11:01 am

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to speak on this motion recognising that tomorrow is World AIDS Day. It is also my mother's birthday. Rest in peace, Mum. World AIDS Day is an annual day to acknowledge those who we've lost to AIDS related conditions and those who are living with HIV. The theme for this year's World AIDS Day is 'now more than ever'. Some 38 million people worldwide are living with HIV. Almost six million of those are living in our Asia-Pacific region. There were 1.7 million people diagnosed with HIV in 2019, compared to the peak of 2.8 million new diagnoses in 1998. This 40 per cent gradual reduction is testament to the global community's commitment and efforts.

Australia has made excellent progress towards our goal of eliminating HIV transmission by 2022. In Australia in 2018 there were 833 HIV notifications, down from 1,084 in 2014. This year so far 129 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Queensland. So HIV has not yet been eliminated. There is still much work to do. Despite a decrease in notifications in the wider Australian community, there have been rising rates of transmissions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. I'm privileged to represent a diverse electorate. Moreton hosted a World AIDS Day multicultural forum in Acacia Ridge on the weekend. I went along and met with several local community leaders. This event is held every year by the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, who received some health funding to hold the forum. This is the 20th year that the mighty ECCQ have held the event, which attracts community leaders from across Brisbane and is particularly aimed at multicultural immunities. There were close to 100 attendees on Saturday.

Sadly, as that cruel data suggests, there is complacency about HIV in some communities largely due to some in the community who have travelled here from overseas. Before arriving they were screened for HIV as part of the health requirement for receiving a visa. Once they were in Australia they heard very little about HIV as a day-to-day concern. We are a victim of our own success. It's not at the forefront as a health issue for many in the community like it was when AIDS first appeared. It was 1987 when the Grim Reaper campaign first aired on television screens. The impact of those ads was crucial in raising awareness of the emerging AIDS epidemic to prevent the spread. Very quickly everyone knew what AIDS was and how to protect yourself from getting it, and the health officials and the gay community groups were magnificent working together.

Sadly, there is not that level of awareness and action in all communities anymore. Forums like the one organised by the mighty Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland are very valuable. They provide good, reliable information to leaders so they can then return to their communities and share that information. The guest speaker on Saturday, Joe Hand, spoke about his experience of living with HIV since 2000. He talked about the stigma that still exists in multicultural communities. He said that he's often asked to speak at events such as the forum on Saturday, but he's the only person who speaks publicly. He hopes that next year he'll be in the audience listening to someone else speak publicly about their experience of living with HIV.

Breaking down the stigma of HIV so that people talk about the disease and share knowledge is crucial in preventing its spread. We've seen the benefit this year of getting information into the community about protection from infection and stopping the spread. The efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic have enveloped the world and overshadowed the continuing efforts to beat the HIV epidemic. As did the AIDS epidemic in its early years, COVID-19 has exposed the inequalities that exist in our community. Millions of people in developing countries died waiting for HIV treatment. We've seen even here in Australia that some sectors of society have been less able to protect themselves from COVID-19—for example, the homeless, who could not isolate like the rest of us in our comfortable homes; those in aged care, whose carers were not provided with adequate PPE to stop the spread; or those in non-state-government run homes in Victoria, where, I think, about 95 per cent of the fatalities occurred, those without nurse-patient ratios. So 2020 has been a year like no other. We've done remarkably well to stop the spread of COVID, but we need to work more too. We can't be complacent about AIDS. The shared responsibility to increase awareness and stop HIV infection demonstrated by my local multicultural community shows that they will continue to work to eliminate HIV.

I'd like to remember today the Australians who've lost their fight against AIDS related conditions. My brothers and my brother's partner, Michael Trelfer, have told me just some of those tragic stories, of the families and friends who fought that fight with them. You are not forgotten. We will all keep fighting and we will remember those names. I repeat: we do not want COVID-19 to threaten the great progress that has been made in beating HIV.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.