Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (22:27): I rise this evening on behalf of the three million men, women and children who are killed each year by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. I do so by supporting very strongly the determination of RESULTS International, particularly its Tasmanian volunteers with whom I have been engaging very closely on this and other issues related to their organisation’s efforts to end poverty. I want to highlight that next week Australia will host the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne between 20 and 25 July. That will be an ideal opportunity for the government to seriously consider providing an additional $125 million to replenish the Global Fund—much needed international development assistance to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
An extra incentive for Australia to provide additional resources to the Global Fund is that Australia is a voice on the board of the Global Fund for continued investment in the Asia-Pacific region. From 2004 to 2013, Australia contributed $400 million to the Global Fund and in this period the Global Fund invested $4 billion in the Asia-Pacific, emphasising the Global Fund’s importance for our region. Pledges to the Global Fund at the pledging conference in December 2013 and contributions that several donors have announced since December have provided the Global Fund with a total of US$12.2 billion for the 2014 to 2016 period. However, these pledges represent a shortfall of US$2.8 billion over three years from the US$15 billion the Global Fund had been seeking to meet its demand.
Results International have advocated strongly that an additional contribution of $125 million to the Global Fund, by the Australian government, which would take Australia’s total contribution over three years to $325 million, is much needed. The impact of an additional contribution by Australia to the Global Fund could be multiplied up to 10 times in the Asia-Pacific region. Under Labor, Australia’s contribution to official development assistance grew with every budget. In 2006-07 the Australian government invested $2.9 billion and by 2013-14 that amount had almost doubled to $5.7 billion. The Global Fund is working to eventually eradicate deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Therefore, an increased investment in the period 2014 to 2016 is crucial to accelerate progress in reducing the death toll from these diseases.
Part of the Howard government’s pledge to the Millennium Development Goals was its commitment to a time line for Australia to contribute 0.5 per cent of its gross national income to overseas aid. Labor honoured that commitment. However, two days before the September election, the then Abbott opposition announced it would dishonour that commitment. The following examples show the impact of the scale-up in detection and treatment of AIDS, TB and Malaria by the Global Fund and other donors: between 2002 and 2012, the number of people on antiretroviral therapy, ART, to treat HIV and AIDS had increased from 200,000 to almost 10 million; the number of deaths from TB has declined by 40 per cent since 2000, due to advances in both detection and treatment of TB; since 2000, the proportion of African households which have an insecticide treated bed net to protect them from mosquitoes carrying malaria has increased from three per cent to 53 per cent and the number of deaths from malaria has fallen by 33 per cent.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Global Fund has supported the following outcomes: 38 million people treated and counselled for HIV and AIDS; 5.1 million people tested and treated for tuberculosis; 29 million insecticide treated bed nets distributed to combat malaria; and 7.4 million health and community workers trained. Nevertheless, the three diseases continue to have a significant impact in the Asia-Pacific region, as the most recent figures from 2009 demonstrate. The 35 countries in the Global Fund’s Asia region were home to five million people living with HIV; the Asia region accounted for 8.5 million cases of TB, 60 per cent of the estimated global total; the region also includes half of the 22 high-TB-burden countries; there were 131 million suspected malaria cases in the 35 countries of the Asia region, more than half of the global total.
The Abbott government’s $7.6 billion cut in foreign aid will not provide 1.5 billion lifesaving malaria treatments. It cannot deliver antiretroviral treatments for 10 million people with HIV and AIDS. HIV and AIDS is still a disease with no cure and remains a global epidemic, often forgotten in the western world. As Australians, we must work towards an international dialogue on the prevention of HIVAIDS. That is why this international AIDS conference, which is being held in Melbourne next week, is so important.
The International AIDS Conference is a fantastic opportunity for Australia to develop prevention policies and engage with experts in policy and science. That is exactly what we need to do as members of parliament as well. I take the opportunity to thank Senator Dean Smith, who I recently joined in becoming co-chair of the parliamentary group for HIV and AIDS, for his knowledge and input into issues around HIV and AIDS to do with the upcoming conference, which we both hope to attend.
It is particularly important that we update Australia’s HIV policy within our aid program to include TB-HIV integration as recommended by the World Health Organisation. This is because TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV, causing one in five HIV-related deaths. TB is the most common presenting illness among people living with HIV, including those who are taking antiretroviral treatment. At least one-third of the 34 million people living with HIV are infected with latent TB. As the host of the International AIDS Conference 2014 and in the light of the international community’s consideration of setting goals looking to end the death toll from AIDS, TB and Malaria, Australia has an opportunity to display strong leadership by announcing a supplementary pledge to the Global Fund.
Achieving these goals will undoubtedly require an increased investment now, to make prevention and treatment available to all people who need it, and to improve the present screening methods and medication, especially for TB. The government has the chance at this international AIDS conference to earn back some of its global respect that it has lost—of course, the respect that it has lost not only in this policy area but also in other policy areas, such as climate change that we were debating earlier in this place. The government has this opportunity to earn back that respect by making a clear commitment to the international community that it recognises a great need, and it wants to help. I am pleased that Australia is hosting this international AIDS conference in Melbourne next week. It will be an opportunity for Australia to highlight its efforts towards HIV and AIDS. It will also be an opportunity for us to make a pledge that we can do more and should do more, as we did under Labor and as has not, unfortunately, been honoured under this government. This is an opportunity for them to reverse that. Let us hope they do this at this HIV-AIDS international conference in Melbourne.
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.”
01 June 2014 – Media Release
The Australian Government will commit $100 million over five years for polio eradication and provide routine immunisations.
$20 million will be provided in 2014/15 to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative providing immunisations to fight the re-emergence of polio.
Polio continues to strike the world’s most vulnerable, especially children.
This debilitating disease is on the verge of being eradicated. However progress is now at risk with outbreaks being reported in northern Africa and the Middle East.
It is endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Health systems have been weakened by factors such as conflict and are failing to deliver routine immunisation, exposing unimmunised children to the virus.
In response, on 5 May 2014, the World Health Organization declared polio a public health emergency of international concern.
Once eradicated, polio will be only the second major disease after small pox to be defeated. This will be a major global victory for public health.
Australia has a proud history of support for polio eradication and is committed to helping finish the job.
The last wild polio virus case in Australia was reported in 1972.
Global Fund News Flash: 20 May 2014
GENEVA – The World Health Organization and the Global Fund today strengthened their long established partnership with a new technical agreement to support countries in developing more strategic investments in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO, and Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, both stressed the importance of expanding partnerships to let country-led programs maximize the impact of health investments.
“This renewed partnership between WHO and the Global Fund will allow us to increase impact and reach more people by working together more closely with countries,” said Dr. Chan.
Dr. Dybul signed the agreement with Hiroki Nakatani, Assistant Director-General, WHO, during the World Health Assembly, a week-long gathering of more than 3,000 delegates from all over the world.
Under the agreement, WHO will provide technical assistance to Global Fund applicants under the new funding model ahead of the submission of their grant applications, or concept notes. The new funding model promotes opportunities for health interventions with a bigger impact, so robust concept notes and sound national strategic plans in specific geographic areas are strongly encouraged.
“The new funding model captures the promise of partnership that is our core belief,” said Dr. Dybul. “This agreement gives us a clear focus, and reinvigorates the spirit of working together.”
Country Coordinating Mechanisms and civil society organizations can apply for WHO technical assistance. WHO will provide assistance through its country or regional offices and with the Roll Back Malaria and STOP TB partnerships.
By building on the progress made in recent years, by approaching health challenges holistically, the WHO and the Global Fund expressed common commitment to approach health challenges with ambition and determination.
Last month, UNICEF and the Global Fund reinforced their partnership with a new agreement to better align investments in commodities aimed at improving the health of mothers, newborns and children. The Global Fund looks forward to formalizing a partnership agreement with UNAIDS in the near future.
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.