Welcome to our audience members representing business and the NGO community.
Can I thank the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS — or APBCA — for organising this event.
The Australian Government recognises the important work you do, and AusAID is proud to have funded APBCA since 2006 to help establish business coalitions against HIV/AIDS.
Documentaries like the one we are about to see are important.
They tell stories of vulnerable and marginalised people, those who often don't have a voice, those we want to reach with our development assistance.
This particular documentary captures stories of the most vulnerable, the stories of the children affected by their parents' illness or death from AIDS.
It reminds us all that the work to combat the terrible impact of this disease, particularly in developing countries, and particularly in PNG, continues every day.
I'd like to commend film-maker Kasimir Burgess. Your film highlights the very human cost of HIV – and reminds us that this is not just about health but also about human rights, about gender equality, and socio-economic development.
Children and HIV in PNG – everyone’s responsibility
As Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs I have had the privilege to visit PNG many times.
During those visits I am always inspired by the strength of the people, their warmth, their culture, their courage.
Health is a major aid priority for Australian in PNG and is identified as such in the Australian-PNG Partnership for Development.
This financial year, AusAID committed $114 million to health and the HIV program.
PNG is the country which is worst affected by HIV in the Pacific Region.
In 2010, 98 per cent of the reported cases of HIV in the Pacific were in PNG.
UNAIDS estimates that the incidence of HIV in PNG is up around 34,000 cases.
That figure is heartbreaking, and it’s even more shocking when we think about the broader social costs, for families and children.
I personally witnessed the devastation experienced by children infected with HIV, during a visit to the AIDS ward at the Port Moresby General Hospital early last year.
Anti-retroviral drugs are available for free at the hospital.
But, for some, the disease has already advanced to AIDS and the hospital opens its doors as a place for those with AIDS to die — with dignity.
There were around 60 patients in the AIDS ward.
Most were surrounded by relatives and friends who would stay until the end. Relatives slept next to or under the bed.
Speaking to the patients and their families, I was humbled by their immense humanity and dignity.
For some, though, there were no visitors. I met a fourteen year old girl, terribly thin and very unwell. She had no-one. She sat on her bed all alone with a look of confusion as to what force or reason could have condemned her to this appalling fate.
Her story is what makes our work urgent.
AusAID is very proud to work with our partners to tackle HIV.
AusAID works with, and through, the PNG Government to support their plans promoting leadership and ownership of the response.
And we are starting to see results with the PNG Government making an unprecedented investment tackling HIV.
In 2010 and 2011, PNG committed more than $10 million AUD – for HIV treatment.
We work to integrate the HIV response into PNG’s primary health care services and target our approach to geographic areas of highest need.
Our work with civil society partners is key to an effective HIV response.
This is especially true in PNG, where the behaviours that put men and women at risk of HIV are shaped by the unique cultural and socio-economic environment, and especially by complex gender issues.
Sixty-five per cent of Australia’s funding to the PNG HIV Program goes directly to civil society.
Last year, the PNG-Australian HIV program helped more than 72,000 Papua New Guineans, including 11,000 pregnant women, determine their HIV status.
AusAID also works with foreign NGOs, such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative which focuses its efforts in Goroka and Eastern Highlands.
Before the first phase of this project, babies born to HIV positive mothers at Goroka Base Hospital were not tested for HIV before they were 18 months. Many didn't live to see their second birthday.
They are now tested at six weeks and put onto medication if they need it.
This has resulted in a dramatic reduction in deaths of babies born to HIV positive mothers – from 96 per cent in 2007 to 21 per cent in 2010.
In this context, the work of the Serendipity Educational Endowment Fund, that we are here to learn about this evening, is very important.
Last year Serendipity provided funding so that 212 children from 94 families affected by HIV could go to school.
Education for this most vulnerable of the vulnerable is what will change their lives.
The Australian and PNG Governments were not under any illusions when we partnered up to tackle this problem.
But we have come a long way.
With every intervention taken, we are making positive in-roads and heading in the right direction.
I thank Kasimir, APBCA and all other partners for the parts they have and are continuing to play.
And I want to thank you for this documentary. It’s a story that simply must be told.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555
- AusAID Media: 0417 680 590