By Sir Elton John. From The Australian, Tuesday 1 December 2015
When AIDS reared its ugly head in the 1980s it was the disease of the gay; a physical infection for a perceived moral imperfection. I saw dozens of my friends contract the disease and then die while the world watched on, uncertain of how to act.
As dozens turned into hundreds, then thousands and then millions, the world’s engine of compassion slowly cranked into gear.
As global apathy turned to action, my despair turned to hope – and by the turn of the millennium I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, my heart is set on seeing an end to AIDS in my lifetime.
Some 30 years on , with World AIDS Day today and before my Australian tour, I wanted to take the time to shine a light on how far we’ve come in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
After a peak in 2005, in the past decade AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 30 per cent. Much of that success is due to access to antiretroviral therapy, which particularly in poor countries has increased from 4 per cent to 40 per cent. Much of this success is because of the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
While the search continues for a cure and a vaccine, it now has been shown that early access to HIV testing and treatment helps to prevent new infections.
Since 2000, infection rates have fallen by 36 per cent in countries in which the fund works. When I look back at the change in attitude we have seen since the 80s, and the impact of action that we have seen since 2000, my heart is full of hope for an AIDS-free future.
Yet, as we turn our attention to our progress, it’s important to remember that there are more than 27,000 people in Australia, and more that 35 million people around the world, still living with HIV. There is still more work to be done.
By far the majority of the people with HIV and AIDS around the world are in low and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
AIDS, like poverty, discriminates. It disproportionately targets the poor, the vulnerable and those without access to the prevention and treatment that the disease requires.
With so much progress made, it’s important for us to maintain our focus and support.
However, it seems that our two countries are now on quite different paths in terms of the priority given to aid funding.
The British government recently legislated to maintain its aid investment at the UN recommended level of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.
In contrast, Australia aid spending is set to reach 0.22 per cent next year. This will be the lowest level ever in Australian aid although we are more hopeful with the new Malcolm Turnbull-led government which has already made some positive changes. They include appointing Steve Ciobo as Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, and helping to rid the Asia-Pacific of malaria by 2030 in the recent commitment of $18 million to a new Regional Malaria and Other Communicable Disease Threats Trust Fund.
Still, this isn’t the Australia that I know. It’s the lucky country, not just because of its unsurpassable beauty but because it’s filled with people who look out for their neighbours, no matter what.
And what do these cuts mean for important initiatives such as the Global Fund and the global efforts to the end of AIDS? In 2016, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will ask donors, including Australia, for increased support for its lifesaving programs for the period of 2017 to 2019. Australia’s contribution to the Global Fund have already helped to bring about remarkable reduction in the new HIV cases, deaths from malaria and access to tuberculosis treatments, especially in the Asia-Pacific. Increasing Australia’s contribution to the fund will save lives, and is a smart investment in health security and peaceful development of fragile and vulnerable countries and regions.
When I saw the beginning of the AIDS crisis, it’s fair to say that I lost heart. But I knew that I had to help. I volunteered, I raised my voice, and eventually started the Elton John Aids Foundation. My commitment to this cause, and the commitment of people all over the world, was reflected in commitments from world leaders, and together we have seen great change.
My call now is for Australians to go and do likewise. To make your concern for your future and the future of your region known. To stand up for the great work done in your name through Australian aid. To raise your voice, and make sure that your leaders know that Australian aid is a part of what makes your country so great.
The progress that we’ve seen around the world in tackling AIDS promises a brighter future for the 27,000 Australians and the 35 million people living with HIV around the world. And you’ll play your part in that story of human progress through Australian aid.
So, are you for Australian aid? I’m proud to say I am. See you soon, Australia.
On Tuesday 1 December 2015, Ministers, shadow Ministers and Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum came together to support World AIDS Day 2015 at a Breakfast to be held at Parliament House, Canberra.
The Ministers and Members of Parliament were joined by a wide cross-section of Australia’s HIV sector including senior experts in HIV care, treatment, education, prevention and research to hear the latest on global and Australian HIV treatment and prevention initiatives.
The Australian Parliamentary World AIDS Day 2015 Breakfast was addressed by:
- Hon Sussan Ley MP Minister for Health
- Hon Catherine King MP Shadow Minister for Health
- Hon Steven Ciobo MP Minister for International Development and the Pacific
- Hon Tanya Plibersek MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs
- Senators Dean Smith and Lisa Singh, Chair and Deputy Chairof the Parliamentary Liaison Group for HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Professor Andrew Grulich, Program Head, HIV Epidemiology, Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales
- David Menadue OAM, Board Member National Association of People Living with HIV Australia
- Bill Bowtell AO, Executive Director, Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Ridding Asia Pacific of malaria by 2030 achievable with $6 million Australian government funding boost
Mr. Bill Bowtell, Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has warmly endorsed the Turnbull government’s plan to rid the Asia Pacific of malaria by 2030.
At the East Asia Summit held in Kuala Lumpur over the past weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the Australian government will provide an additional $6 million towards the East Asian regional plan to eradicate malaria from the Asia Pacific.
“The Prime Minister’s commitment is both practical and visionary. The eradication of malaria will not only save millions of people from preventable suffering and early death, but also provides a stimulus to economic growth and promotes health security for our friends and neighbours”, said Mr. Bowtell. “We hope that Prime Minister Turnbull will continue to serve as Co-Chair of the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Alliance (APLMA) in order to oversee the implementation of this exceptional policy commitment”.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease. It is preventable and treatable, however it still claims over 50,000 lives each year in the Asia Pacific region.
“Between 2000 and 2013, thanks to increased funding and better strategies, the global malaria mortality rate has fallen by almost 50%, but we are seeing the emergence of new forms of drug-resistant malaria, especially in the Mekong region”.
This presents new challenges, but with increased funding of new treatments and preventive measures, eradication of malaria in the Mekong region is now an achievable goal.
Malaria – at a glance
- Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes.
- If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.
- Malaria is preventable and treatable.
- Malaria claims over 50,000 lives each year in the Asia Pacific region and 600,000 globally.
- New drug-resistant forms of malaria are emerging, especially in the Mekong region.
- Preventive measures like the use of insecticide and mosquito nets have helped reduce mortality from malaria.
- Improved funding and strategies reduced the global malaria mortality rate by almost 48% between 2000 and 2013.
- Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. In 2013 over three-quarters of all malaria deaths were in children under the age of five.
Half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to malaria. The Global Fund is a 21st-century partnership organization designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases. The Global Fund raises and invests nearly US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in countries and communities most in need.
Prevention involves the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, the use of indoor residual spraying of households and, if appropriate, interventions targeting the larval stages of the mosquito. For example, in Sri Lanka, larvivorous (larvae-eating) fish were introduced to bodies of water where mosquitoes normally breed. Through the middle of 2015, programs supported by the Global Fund had distributed 548 million nets to protect families. Sleeping under an insecticide-treated net halves malaria cases among children.
As of mid 2015, programs supported by the Global Fund had provided 515 million treatments for malaria. In the last decade, we have seen the introduction of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a new generation of antimalarial treatment that are highly effective. Unfortunately, however, we are already seeing resistance to the key ingredient, artemisinin, (as well as the partner drugs) develop in certain parts of the world. This is one of the great challenges facing us in the fight against malaria.
Andrew Wilkie MP joined anti-poverty campaigners at Parliament House this week to support the end to one of the world’s deadliest and oldest diseases – tuberculosis.
Volunteers and staff from RESULTS International (Australia) met with the Independent Member for Denison to discuss several issues including ending the scourge of tuberculosis and improving education in the Asia-Pacific.
Anti-poverty advocates Maree Nutt, Camilla Ryberg, Sarah Kirk, and Gina Olivieri went into bat for The Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB & Malaria, asking Mr Wilkie to call on the Abbott Government to make a donation of just $200 million to the lifesaving financial institution.
Over a million people die from tuberculosis each year worldwide, more than half of these deaths occur right on Australia’s doorstep.
Mr Wilkie has been a long-time supporter of the grassroots organisation since 2010 and makes his office and resources available whenever they visit Canberra to champion their causes.
The campaigners also asked Mr Wilkie to write to Treasurer Joe Hockey and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop to get the Government to commit to effective and cost-efficient nutrition and education programs that will build economic resilience in the Asia-Pacific.
Globally, there are still 57 million children not in primary school, with the Asia-Pacific accounting for over half of all the world’s illiterate adults.
Mr Wilkie MP said: “I welcome RESULTS and their campaigning for more Government action to improve our region’s health and prosperity. If the Foreign Affairs Minister wants better value for our aid dollars, she needs to commit to developing a nutrition and education strategy for our foreign aid program and to support the Global Fund even more.
“A more prosperous region means a more prosperous Australia,” Mr Wilkie added.
Maree Nutt, CEO of RESULTS, said: “We are very grateful for Mr Wilkie’s support in the fight against TB and education. With recent cuts to the foreign aid budget we need every MP and Senator in our corner to win this battle.
“Investing in credible organisations like the Global Fund and developing smart, cost-effective strategies to improve education standards, will not only save hundreds of thousands of lives, but it will save us millions of dollars,” Ms Nutt added.
RESULTS staff and volunteers will meet with 18 MPs and Senators in just two days.
RESULTS works closely with federal parliamentarians and their constituents to generate the public and political will to end extreme poverty.
The Global Fund has released a updated Infographic, including the numbers from the 2013 World Malaria Report.The infographic shows the timeline since the Global Fund’s Foundation in 2002. The Global Fund galvanizes support for the fight against AIDS, TB and Malaria, working with partners to support the most effective prevention and treatment.
Today, the number of HIV infections is decreasing worldwide. The Global Fund accounts for 21% of international funding for HIV.
Today, TB incidence rates are declining in all 6 WHO regions. The Global Fund accounts for 82% of international funding for TB.
Today, malaria incidence have fallen by half or more in several countries. The Global Fund accounts for 50% of international funding for Malaria.