Greens MP Senator Janet Rice has spoken on raising awareness about the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS, with a speech of support made in the Australian Senate ahead of World AIDS Day 2018.
Describing World AIDS Day, Janet Rice said it is a day to remember those who we have lost, a day for people to learn about HIV, to take action to reduce the transmission of HIV, and to support people in our community who are living with HIV.
“While we’ve seen some good progress in the overall decline of HIV rates in Australia, the fact remains that stigma for people living with HIV remains a real issue, particularly for those in the LGBTIQ+ community,” Senator Rice said.
“Reducing stigma leads to more people getting tested, and early testing is essential for the elimination of HIV. There is a very important role for government to play in this… further government resourcing of interventions… to end the transmission of HIV in Australia.”
“I commend the listing of PrEP on the PBS and would like to acknowledge the massive community campaign and the hard work of LGBTIQ advocacy organisations and activists, and health organisations, that led to this.”
Janet Rice said there continues to be a strong link between the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS to the stigma and discrimination associated with same-sex attraction and gender diversity.
“The stigma of HIV is strongly linked to the still ongoing stigma of being same-sex attracted and outdated attitudes that the disease is due to being gay, and, in some circles, still presented as punishment for being gay,” Senator Rice said.
“Stigma, of course, is strongly connected with discrimination. Where legal and illegal discrimination against same-sex- attracted and gender-diverse people continue, people feel lesser.”
“They feel that they have to struggle with their sexuality and gender identity, rather than feeling valued and respected in society for who they are and feeling they can be out and proud.”
“Removing HIV stigma starts with removing discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people, and a good place to start is in schools, ensuring that LGBTIQ+ students feel safe and respected for who they are. The government needs to step up to make sure that this is the case.”
Speaking on the government response to HIV and AIDS, Janet Rice urged the government to build on the good work they are already doing both in our region and globally to advance LGBTI rights as well as in HIV protection.
“Since the 1980s Australia has taken a range of measures to achieve a sustained low prevalence of HIV and AIDS. Federal and state governments responded proactively in 1982 once HIV was identified,” Senator Rice said.
“This was a cross-party response, and it was only possible by putting people’s needs above politics. There were often many controversial programs that were implemented and, most importantly, we publicly talked about the risk factors for HIV transmission.”
“Australian communities mobilised to prevent HIV transmission. We were able to do it in Australia. We were able to work with the communities most affected. We can help make it happen around the world.”
The Australian Greens recently announced a $10 million fund for organisations that work to combat and prevent HIV in Australia, with a further $1 million for national campaigns that break down HIV discrimination and stigma.