On September 10, 180 people attended a talk on HIV/AIDS given by retired high court judge Michael Kirby at the University of Western Sydney.
Today, more than 40 million people worldwide have AIDS. There is still no cure and no vaccines. Anti-viral drugs, which can prolong life expectancy for those living with the virus, remain prohibitively expensive for most people.
Kirby said early strategies for combating the spread of AIDS — such as needle exchanges, the Grim Reaper advertising campaign, and removal of laws against homosexuality — meant Australia had a relatively low, steady rate of infection.
This is in stark contrast to many parts of the world, including the US. Kirby said countries with legal protection for gays and lesbians, sex workers and drug users have fewer infections: criminalising the ways in which HIV can be transmitted is counter-productive.
Globally, money is being diverted away from the fight against HIV/AIDS as the effects of the economic crisis continue to bite.