The. Hon. Michael Kirby 2015

''Whatever Happened to the Aids Epidemic?''

Many people in Australia think that the AIDS epidemic, caused by the HIV virus, is over. No more horrifying photos on the front pages. Lots of news of powerful antiretroviral drugs. Self congratulations that Australia responded effectively and set an example for the global community. Whilst there are some elements of these suppositions that are correct, dangerous features of the epidemic still remained to be dealt with and some are on the increase:

  • The rise in infections in Australia after a period where the epidemic seemed to have plateaued.
  • The apparent decline in self protection (condom use and safe sex) in the gay population.
  • The appearance of growing ineffectiveness in the original antiretroviral drugs, requiring resort to new heavily patented drugs.
  • The logjam in the moves for self protection in most developing countries and the failure to repeal laws that isolate gays, sex workers and drug users.
  • The decline in contributions by developed countries, including Australia, to the International funding of essential drugs in poorer countries.
  • The failure of the international community to reform the laws on pharmaceutical patents to make them more compatible with the human right to health.
  • The ongoing failure to find a full cure to HIV or a safe vaccine to prevent its acquisition, despite high hopes and huge investments.
  • The horrible laws being passed in many countries (Uganda, Nigeria, Russia) that isolate people at risk of HIV and heighten spread of the virus.

Drawing on his current international work for UN AIDS, UNDP and the Global Fund, Michael Kirby will outline where we are at, and where we seem to be headed.