Over the course of the last year, I’ve had the privilege to serve as Deputy-Chair of the HIV Taskforce. My work with the Taskforce has given me a renewed appreciation for just how powerful the community-led response was and continues to be in driving down HIV infections.
As a nurse in public hospitals in the 1980s, I remember well the devastation but also the hope that came from the individuals and organisations who quickly rallied together to care for one another. This is the lasting legacy of that time.
We have come so far since those dark early days – but we still have a lot of work to do. In particular, stigma remains a big challenge in our response. Its impact upon people living with HIV causes hurt and harm, and hampers our efforts to get toward elimination.
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities face additional layers of stigma. It impacts their health care and their mental health. It creates barriers to prevention, testing and treatment. The consequence is gay and bi-sexual men born overseas are a growing proportion of those newly diagnosed with HIV.
Earlier this year, I had the honour to chair the HIV Youth Roundtable where I heard firsthand about the experiences of young people when it comes to prevention, testing, treatment, care and stigma. Their feedback was invaluable in guiding the work of the Taskforce. The young people I spoke to honoured the legacy of those lost to HIV/AIDS – they described themselves as standing on the shoulders of giants.
I’m proud that our Government is building on the longstanding bipartisan efforts to change these outcomes and achieve the elimination of HIV transmission.
I’m proud that we are so close to living in an Australia where those young people I met with don’t have to experience the loss that so many who came before them had to endure.
This is an exciting time in our shared fight, and I’m so proud to stand with you as I did all those years ago as a nurse, as we do justice to the legacy of those we have lost.
Together we will get to zero.
GED KEARNEY MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care