UNAIDS welcomes Australia’s commitment to equal treatment of people living with HIV in its immigration policies
Press Statement by UNAIDS
GENEVA, 10 July 2014—UNAIDS welcomes confirmation from the Government of Australia that people living with HIV do not face an automatic exclusion, or unequal treatment when applying for entry, stay or residence visas. People living with HIV are treated similarly to other people with chronic health conditions and disabilities during the country’s immigration health assessment process. Applications for visas from people living with HIV will be assessed against criteria applying to anyone with a chronic health condition.
The announcement came ahead of the 20th International AIDS Conference, which will take place in Melbourne, Australia, from 20 to 25 July 2014.
“People living with HIV need equal opportunity to contribute to and benefit from today’s globalized world, where migration is increasingly important. Eliminating travel restrictions is not only a human right for individuals, it improves business prospects for communities,” said the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé.
UNAIDS advocates for the right to equal freedom of movement, regardless of HIV status. There is no evidence that restrictions on the entry, stay or residence of people living with HIV protect the public’s health. In 2012, more than 40 chief executives from some of the world’s largest companies signed a pledge opposing HIV restrictions, calling them discriminatory and bad for business.
As part of its ongoing dialogue with countries on this issue, UNAIDS has sent communications to all countries, territories and areas that appear to have HIV-related entry, stay and residence restrictions, and has raised the issue during official high-level visits. Australia has made important reforms to its migration health assessment requirements and procedures since the conclusion of a parliamentary inquiry on migration and disability in 2010, including an annual increase to the “significant cost threshold”, the elimination of the cost assessment related to health services for humanitarian visa applicants and improvements to increase the transparency of the health assessment process. These reforms were assessed against the criteria outlined by the International Task Team on HIV-related Travel Restrictions, co-chaired by the Government of Norway and UNAIDS, and it was concluded that Australia had met the task team’s standard.
Port Moresby – Oil Search Limited’s Managing Director, Peter Botten, has announced the Company’s platinum sponsorship of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) that will take place from 20 – 25 July in Melbourne, Australia. Mr. Botten made the announcement at a dinner in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG), after hosting a two-day tour of HIV treatment facilities for some of the world’s most pre-eminent leaders in the global HIV response.
Jan Beagle, United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, and Professor Sharon Lewin, Local Co-Chair of AIDS 2014, were among the delegates who participated in the tour of Hela Province in the country’s north, experiencing first-hand how the private sector is making significant inroads in addressing the HIV epidemic in PNG.
As guest of honour, Ms. Beagle addressed the high-level audience at the Grand Papua Hotel in Port Moresby, emphasising the importance of a multi-sectoral response and commended Oil Search for its public health interventions in PNG.
“The Oil Search Health Foundation, in partnership with the Government and civil society organisations, is providing impressive HIV-related services and using HIV as an entry point for broader health and development outcomes,” said Ms Beagle.
Local Co-chair of AIDS 2014, Professor Lewin, praised Oil Search for its generous support for the AIDS Conference as well as the Company’s innovative approach to delivering HIV prevention, treatment and care in PNG.
“I truly believe that companies like Oil Search are showing the leadership we need from the private sector and they should be applauded for the role they are playing in all our work to see the end of AIDS,” said Professor Lewin.
At the dinner, Mr. Botten highlighted the importance of bringing a slice of PNG to AIDS 2014, noting that the country’s geography, HIV prevalence level and Oil Search’s innovative public-private partnership with the PNG Government made a compelling case for the Company to sponsor the AIDS conference in Australia.
“I believe it is pertinent for Oil Search and our Health Foundation to demonstrate the impact the private sector can have on the response to HIV in PNG,” said Mr Botten. “Over the last two days, our guests have visited Tari Hospital and two health clinics to see for themselves how the public-private partnership we have established with the PNG National Department of Health is helping to overcome the challenges HIV patients and service providers face in treating and preventing HIV in remote locations.
“Using funds from the Global Fund Round 10 HIV grant, the Oil Search Health Foundation is working with the PNG Government and development partners to deliver better HIV programs, better counselling and treatment services and better outcomes in PNG than any of us could have achieved on our own,” said Mr. Botten.
Mr. Botten concluded by issuing a challenge to others in the private sector to follow Oil Search’s lead:
“Where national health systems are overburdened, the proactive participation of the private sector is not only needed, but an obligation. I encourage other industry leaders to rise to the challenge both in PNG and elsewhere around the world.”
GENEVA/NEW YORK – UNICEF and the Global Fund today reinforced their long-standing partnership through a new agreement to better coordinate efforts aimed at reducing the burden of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria and improving the health of mothers, newborns, and children.
Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake signed a new Memorandum of Understanding that emphasizes the importance of coordinating investments in commodities to prevent and treat HIV, tuberculosis and malaria with those designed to improve overall maternal, newborn, and child health.
“The Global Fund has helped expand access for millions of mothers and children to lifesaving commodities that prevent and treat HIV, TB, and malaria,” said Lake. “This new agreement will help governments integrate these critical investments with health services that support basic maternal, newborn, and child health. This integration will increase the effectiveness of both efforts and potentially save millions of lives.”
Specifically, the Global Fund and UNICEF agreed to jointly identify countries where HIV and malaria investments for mothers and children could be better aligned with investments in basic maternal, newborn and child health. As a first step, these commodities could include iron and folic acid, tetanus vaccinations, syphilis screening and treatment for pregnant women, and antibiotics to treat pneumonia and oral rehydration salts and zinc to treat diarrheal disease in children.
Under the new agreement, the Global Fund and UNICEF will encourage governments and Country Coordinating Mechanisms to integrate packages of care and support for mothers and children, and to apply for Global Fund grants that align HIV, TB and malaria programming with broader maternal, newborn and child health efforts. UNICEF will support governments that wish to review and revise national strategies to strengthen this alignment and will help mobilize additional funding where necessary to purchase supplies and equipment for the care of mothers, newborns and children.
“This partnership between UNICEF and the Global Fund strengthens what is already operating on the ground in many countries,” said Dr. Dybul. “We have much further to go, and by working together we can achieve tremendous progress for women and children around the world.”
Global Fund News Flash: 07 April 2014
WINDHOEK, Namibia – Partners from countries in Eastern and Southern Africa opened a four-day meeting in the Namibian capital this week to examine how to make investments achieve the greatest possible impact in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
More than 150 people – from governments, civil society, technical partners in 12 countries – came together to discuss the Global Fund’s new funding model and to look at how to optimize use of all available funding. Encouraging each country to prioritize investments and coordinate them with national plans and strategies for health is a central theme of the new funding model.
Dr. Richard Kamwi, Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services, opened the meeting by asking participants to champion an increase in domestic investments in health, which he said would strengthen partnerships and safeguard the gains of the past 10 years.
“Speak to your governments,” said Dr. Kamwi. “Unless we sustain these gains, the progress we have made will have been futile.”
In the spirit of partnership, Dr. Kamwi announced that his country’s cabinet had authorized a donation of US$1 million to the Global Fund.
The new funding model was designed to more fully deliver on the promise of partnership that created the Global Fund in 2002. That includes strong country ownership, increased domestic spending on health and a focus on human rights.
Prof. Sheila Tlou, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team in East and Southern Africa, told the meeting that the region should use the new funding model to ensure that marginalized people not only get prevention and treatment but are also involved in decision-making.
“We need to ensure that key populations are involved in the formulation and implementation of programs under the new funding model,” she said. “We need to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Cynthia Mwase, the Regional Manager of Southern and Eastern Africa at the Global Fund, said that the new funding model integrates human rights and partnership into new grants, and also provides a strategic roadmap on how the region can remove the three diseases as threats to public health. She said the meeting was organized to help Global Fund partners in the region to prepare to attain impact through the US$1.7 billion now available for the funding period.
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Global Fund News Flash: Issue 40
John Rae is a documentary and commercial photographer who has worked with the Global Fund since 2002 and delivered some of our most memorable images. Over the years, John has visited over 45 countries to document efforts to defeat AIDS, TB and malaria. This is the second in a series of memorable photos that John is telling us about:
In November 2007, I went to “the hills” of western Nepal – 4,500 meter rock walls that anywhere else in the world would be called mountains. A dangerous road got me to a small town called Silgadhi, where I saw a support group called People Living with AIDS. Its leader is Tara BK. She is my hero.
Tara is a short woman with bright eyes and a quick smile that belies the trials she has been through. She belongs to a low caste called the Bisokarma. That means if Tara goes to a restaurant she has to wash her own dishes when she has finished eating. It means she is not allowed to sell milk, and people in higher castes fear that buying milk from her will make the cow will climb up a tree. The caste system must still be going strong in rural Nepal. I have never seen any cows in trees.
Tara told me that she got married six years ago. Shortly afterward, her husband left in search of work in India and did not return for five years. She was tired of waiting and decided to join her husband in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. That was unusual for a woman in Nepal, but Tara was determined to be with her husband. Nine months later Tara gave birth to a healthy son. That same week, her husband began shivering and was running a high fever. He was diagnosed with AIDS. The local hospital was ill-equipped to treat him, and recommended he go to the “big hospital” in Hyderabad. But her husband’s health quickly deteriorated and he died just a week after the test.
Two days later, Tara began the long journey back to Silgadhi with her newborn son. Not long after her return, Tara began to feel weak. She was breathless and broke into a fever and began to shiver. Salibaan, a man from her village who worked at the local health clinic approached her and she confided in him that she feared she may have “desi rog.” Salibaan, who had received HIV/AIDS training told her that the clinic had a program for testing, counselling and medication.
Fearing for her baby, Tara took the test for HIV. It came back positive. She was devastated. She was warned not to breastfeed her baby. But without an income and unable to work, and with a hungry baby to feed, she saw no choice and reluctantly began to breastfeed her child. Within months her son died.
Soon after, Tara revisited the health clinic and received free antiretroviral medication and counselling. Staff asked if she would be willing to “come out” about the results. After losing her husband and her son to the disease, she did not care what others thought about her status. If “coming out” would help others, she thought, there was no reason to hesitate. She was the first in her area to acknowledge her status publically and realized she could use her sorrow and experience to help others. She joined the local People Living with HIV/AIDS support group and was elected president. She began receiving a monthly salary of 3,000 Rupees (about US$30.) It enabled her to slowly repay the loan for her marriage, and the medical and cremation expenses for her son. Her mission now is simple: to prevent new infections and support people suffering from HIV and AIDS.
Tara’s life is not easy. She lives with her mother-in-law in a small mud hut. She is HIV-positive. She faces discrimination, as a lower caste, and is also stigmatized for her HIV status. Despite it all, Tara still walks 15-25 kilometers a day through the “hills” to help patients living with HIV and AIDS. Tara is my hero.
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.