Executive Director of Pacific Friends Bill Bowtell spoke to ABC Radio Australia live from the 2012 International AIDS Conference. In an interview with Phil Kafcaloudes, Bill spoke about reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, progress in Papua New Guinea, and Australia’s support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Bill Bowtell responds to Australian Ambassador to the United Nations
Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, Bill Bowtell has provided a response to the address given by Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, 11 June 2012. Gary Quinlan’s original address can be found here. In his response, Bill Bowtell highlights the commendable work of both UNAIDS and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and their tireless response to combat the HIV & AIDS epidemic in Papua New Guinea.
Response to Statement on 11 June 2012 by H.E. Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
“Implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS”
By Bill Bowtell AO
The 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS commits all countries to a series of bold policy and program actions, supported by clear time-bound targets to measure progress, to reduce, and eventually eradicate the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
This landmark UN Declaration also comes at a time of tremendous advances in the science of HIV prevention and treatment. However, these advances need leadership and action to realize the goals of dramatically reducing new HIV infections and HIV illness and related deaths. The 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS provides the global framework for transforming the global response to the epidemic and capitalizing on these important advances.
However, as noted by Gary Quinlan in his statement of 11 June 2012, the lack of progress in implementing the goals and commitments as agreed in the Political Declaration is deeply disappointing. This lack of progress results directly in avoidable new HIV infections and more HIV related illness and deaths.
For example, Papua New Guinea has the region’s largest HIV epidemic, with approximately 0.92% of the adult population living with HIV in 2009. Commendably, AusAID has committed $A185 million to the Papua New Guinea-Australia HIV/AIDS program that runs from 2007 to 2012.
Since 2007, through AusAID and its supported partners, the Australian government has helped over 72,000 Papua New Guineans, including 11,000 pregnant women, to be tested for HIV. In 2010, the program helped more than 7500 Papua New Guineans access treatment for HIV. New HIV infections in the Pacific region have declined from 4700 in 2001 to 4500 in 2009. Between 2007-8, there has been an increase of 50% in the number of Papua New Guineans tested for HIV, and a 260% increase in the number of people tested between 2008-9. The number of Papua New Guineans infected with HIV that are receiving life- saving anti-retroviral treatment has increased exponentially, with coverage increasing from 23% in 2007 to 65% in 2008 and 74% in 2009.
Australia’s support for the Papua New Guinea response to HIV has therefore clearly been important. Though recent analysis by UNAIDS suggests that the HIV epidemic is beginning to level off , the response to HIV in Papua New Guinea remains extremely fragile with sub-optimal access to treatment and care in many areas of the country. Papua New Guinea can reverse the rate of new HIV infections and optimize the impact of HIV treatment by fully implementing prevention and treatment measures outlined in the 2011 UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
Similarly, Australia must also fully integrate the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS into its national, state and territory HIV strategies. Our tardiness in doing so is highly regrettable and undermines our efforts to encourage other countries, particularly in our region, to adopt bold, evidence-based HIV responses.
UNAIDS has worked tirelessly with a plethora of agencies to encourage the full implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration. However, Australia must provide greater support for this effort, through multi- year core funding to UNAIDS and by recognising the importance of promoting evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment as the core of the global response. Australia should allocate its international HIV/AIDS budget at a level commensurate with the solemn commitments we made at the United Nations in 2011.
Australia played a commendable role in securing international support for the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. This reflected well on our three decades of commitment to bringing the HIV pandemic under control domestically, regionally and globally. In the years ahead, the challenge is to consolidate the great gains that have been made in the past several years, to increase access to HIV treatment for all and to fund the global response at the level that will ensure the rapid decline in the numbers of new HIV infections. Only by doing this can we bring about the beginning of the end of HIV/AIDS.
Bill Bowtell AO is the Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Pacific Friends would like to thank UNAIDS and AusAID for their support of this statement.
Bill Bowtell, Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, spoke to ABC Breakfast Television live from the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington DC. Watch Bill as he speaks to Michael Rowland about an ‘AIDS Free Generation’ and the Australian response to global HIV priorities.
This is a guest post from Amanda Allen-Toland, Program Manager at the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS and Elizabeth Reid, Serendipity Educational Endowment Fund Trustee.
Before the arrival of HIV in Papua New Guinea, the extended family provided a sound support base to care for the children of family members who passed away. However due to the large number of people living with HIV and AIDS in PNG, estimated to be 60,000 people, extended family support mechanisms are struggling to cope with the rising numbers of children that need care and support following the death of their parents or primary caregiver.
There has been little focus on the children of the HIV epidemic. There is little understanding of their situation and few people are working with them. Some of these children are infected, all are affected. They face many problems. One overwhelming problem is the likely loss of an education, which has serious ramifications for their futures. Children whose parents are infected are often lost to school long before their parents die: tension in the family, unaffordable school fees, family breakdown, a parent leaves or dies, they are stripped of their inheritance, of land or home, and more.
In 2008, as a young Australian entrepreneur, Craig McMahon donated $250,000 to the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS (APBCA). APBCA immediately consulted with its national affiliate, the PNG Business Coalition Against HIV and AIDS (BAHA) and following further consultations, realised the gap in support for children made vulnerable by the epidemic. Shortly after, the Serendipity Educational Endowment Fund was established with the original $250,000 donation and has now grown and receives funds from the Myer Foundation and the PNG Sustainable Development Fund.
The Serendipity Fund supports families all over PNG by providing funds to enable children affected by HIV to complete their education. The program covers the cost of schools books, uniforms and fees. The average cost of a child’s education in PNG is $3,000. Without a parent or guardian to cover these costs, most leave school and work to contribute to the extended family household.
Australian film-director Kasimir Burgess has made a short film about the Serendipity Fund, called “Hope for Life”. The film provides a rare opportunity to hear the stories of children whose lives have been affected by HIV.
The Serendipity Educational Endowment Fund provides funding for a quality, sustainable education to children living in the region whose lives have been affected by AIDS. Serendipity benefits children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, children whose parents are living with HIV and the children of families providing support. This program is currently operating in PNG, where approximately 200 children are receiving financial support to continue their education.
For more information about the Serendipity Fund and how to contribute, go to www.apbca.com
On 13 July the office of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Bob Carr, announced that Australia will host a high-level conference in October this year called “Malaria 2012: Saving lives in the Asia Pacific” to help combat the challenge of malaria.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr announced the Malaria 2012: Saving lives in the Asia Pacific conference at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Cambodia yesterday.
“Despite recent progress in tackling malaria, there are still more than 200 million malaria cases globally, with around 30 million cases in our region,” Senator Carr said.
Malaria has a profound impact on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our region causing 42,000 deaths in 2010 and leaving many more unable to work and care for their families. Malaria also threatens economic growth and business interests in the region.
“Gains in controlling and eliminating malaria are threatened by emerging drug resistance in the region.
“Addressing global health issues has been a priority for Australia at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting and I am pleased that we will continue this work at the malaria conference later this year.
“The conference will provide an opportunity for Asia-Pacific leaders to build on our successes, protect the gains and further develop regional responses to malaria.
“It will also provide a forum to discuss how we can work together to combat emerging drug resistant strains in the region and explore ways of contributing to the global effort to eliminate deaths from malaria by the end of 2015, as called for by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.”
Australia has been working with developing countries in Asia and the Pacific regions to combat malaria. Australia currently supports the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network and provides investments to save peoples’ lives, including through funding treatment and the distribution of bed nets in Asia Pacific.
Our support has helped to achieve significant results in reducing malaria cases in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Since 2003, our investments have helped to reduce malaria cases by 70 per cent in the Solomon Islands and 85 per cent in Vanuatu.
Malaria 2012 will be held over three days in Sydney from 31 October – 2 November 2012. Representatives from governments and development partners across Asia and the Pacific will attend the conference along with leading health and development experts.
Senator Carr will host a ministerial meeting as part of the event with the UN Special Envoy for Malaria, Mr Ray Chambers.
Global Health News
Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.