Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


World AIDS Day

7:13 pm

Photo of Lisa SinghLisa Singh (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

Last Saturday I attended the annual Rainbow Dinner and Awards in Hobart to mark World AIDS Day and to acknowledge the passion and commitment of various individuals in breaking down discrimination in the LGBTI community. World AIDS Day has been held on 1 December each year since 1987 and is the longest running health awareness day. I also acknowledge the contribution of Senator John Faulkner to raising awareness of this important day in his contribution previously in this chamber.

David Foster OAM, 2013 World Aids Day Ambassador for Tasmania, sums up exactly what World AIDS Day signifies:

Life gets so busy and there is so much to be concerned by, which means that sometimes we forget about big issues facing others. HIV is one of those issues. We have to refocus on raising awareness of HIV. We need to come together as a community and support those who need us.

So we cannot become complacent in dealing with this disease. HIV-AIDS is still a disease with no cure and remains a global epidemic often forgotten in the Western World. Many of the same barriers which have fuelled the epidemic over the past 30 years are still in existence. These barriers must be broken down to properly tackle disease. Stigma, discrimination, attitudes and practices impede the application of treatment options and prevention programs. Individuals facing these barriers are often left in isolation from the mainstream support systems that do exist. Solutions require focusing on key affected populations with partnerships between community organisations and policymakers.

In Hobart, as in many capital cities, World AIDS Day is an important opportunity to fundraise and to raise awareness in our community. Funds such as the Andrew Shaw fund provide emergency relief to Tasmanians living with HIV-AIDS and their carers. The Tasmanian Council on AIDS, Hepatitis and Related Diseases runs the fund and is highly active in education and support in our community. The spirit and passion of individuals in this association and others like them around the country are very much to be commended. Tackling stigma, discrimination and the fear of HIV-AIDS which still exists encourages us to move past the diagnosis and onto long-term, comprehensive policies and prevention.

As Australians we work towards an international dialogue on the prevention of HIV-AIDS. Many countries, including developing countries, have made huge advances in combating the AIDS epidemic. The achievements of the United Nations organisation UNAIDS should be commended in this area, with more than 80 countries increasing their domestic investments for AIDS by over 50 per cent between 2006 and 2011. More than seven million people now are on HIV treatment across Africa, where new HIV infections and deaths continue to fall, while there are renewed commitments in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

The International AIDS Conference will be held in Melbourne next year, 2014, and, as the largest medical conference held in Australia, it will help us to focus our sight. It is a fantastic opportunity for Australia to develop prevention policies and engage with experts in the areas of policy and science. We have the responsibility to work to prevent further increases in diagnoses. Testing more, treating early and staying safe should be our focus. I believe we can achieve this through education, better access to options and working together in civil society.

Risk reduction strategies launched by community organisations have greatly improved transmission rates. Key to early detection and treatment is access to flexible, easy and quick testing. Rapid testing gives people results in half an hour in a non-threatening environment and is now available at specific locations such as in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Effective treatment can result in an undetectable viral load which dramatically reduces transmission rates.

World AIDS Day reminds us all in Australia that we have a responsibility to continue the fight against this global epidemic. I encourage my Senate colleagues to help the effort to end HIV-AIDS.