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Motion: World AIDS Day

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:

That this council—

1. Recognises that each year on 1 December we commemorate World AIDS Day; and

2. Recommits to end AIDS by 2030.

I rise because today marks the 34th occurrence of World AIDS Day and this year marks 40 years since AIDS was first diagnosed as a disease. World AIDS Day was an initiative started by the World Health Organization and later taken over by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) with the intention of driving action to reduce the level of transmissions and deaths and to combat the stigma against HIV and ensure that people living with it are afforded their best life.

This year, the theme of World AIDS Day is 'End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics'. We are currently living in a time when the AIDS pandemic is intersecting with COVID-19 and, much like with COVID-19, it is only through leaders and communities coming together and working as a collective focused on the needs of the people that this AIDS pandemic can be overcome, as it must.

The world has made some truly great strides in combating HIV over the years and ensuring that HIV is now no longer a death sentence; however, as well as celebrating that progress made, World AIDS Day also offers us an opportunity to reflect upon and highlight how far we still have to go. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2020 there were approximately 37.7 million people living with HIV, 1.5 million of whom were newly infected that year, and over half a million deaths.

Currently, approximately 73 per cent of people living with HIV are receiving long-term antiretroviral therapy to assist with the strengthening of HIV patients' immune systems and helping them live a long and healthy life. The past few years have seen countries across the world adopt a treat-all strategy for providing lifelong antiretroviral therapy to all with HIV. This is a great step forward and one that is helping millions, but there is such a long way to go when it comes to expanding that treatment, particularly amongst children and adolescents. This is made more dire by COVID-19, of course, as these essential treatments have in some areas faltered or become more difficult to consistently maintain during the other pandemic.

It is integral that we recommit to tackling this health crisis and to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as laid out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We must tackle both COVID-19 and HIV in tandem and account for the issues COVID-19 presents for those living with HIV. We must ensure that all people living with HIV are given equal access to the necessary treatment and care and we must commit to ensure no-one is left behind.

But one of the sad truths is, of course, that HIV is heavily stigmatised and continues to be. In preparation for this year's World AIDS Day, a survey conducted by the UK revealed that public understanding around HIV is truly abysmal. This survey showed that one in five people thought you could contract HIV through kissing and only 16 per cent of people knew that someone with HIV on effective treatment could not pass the virus on and could live a happy and healthy life.

Most shockingly, the survey showed that two-thirds of the people who were surveyed claimed to feel no sympathy for people living with HIV, regardless of how they contracted it. A study conducted in Australia earlier this year confirms that this similar stigma exists here in Australia. It is particularly targeted towards people from ethnically diverse backgrounds and that stigma has been connected to real impacts—tangible impacts—on their health and wellbeing.

The level of education and awareness surrounding HIV is severely lacking. Indeed, in my generation the education was enormous, but we have lost our way on that. If we are to achieve that goal of eradicating new HIV transmissions and HIV-related deaths by 2030, we have to do our part to improve. I commend all sides of this parliament for their previous efforts and note in particular the work of the current Minister for Health and Wellbeing in ensuring access to medications, which I lobbied for some years ago under the Weatherill government.

We must all work towards eliminating the persisting stigma and realise that this virus can be contracted in so many ways but dispel the myths that still pervade about ways that it cannot be contracted. World AIDS Day is an important day on which to celebrate the milestones we have already reached and to reflect on those we have yet to. I always find this issue quite personal. I lost a dear friend who contracted HIV when he was young due to a blood transfusion and who died as a result of complications. He was a musician. His name was Baterz. He was a bit of a folk music icon of both Canberra and Adelaide.

In his memory, I often think of all the great talent that he had and the contribution that he could have made. Perhaps if the stigma, the awareness and indeed the treatments had been a little quicker in coming, he would have lived to be in his fifties, as he would now be, but we lost him some two decades ago. With that, I commend the motion.

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