Health minister Tony Abbott launched World AIDS Day yesterday urging individuals at risk of HIV to take greater responsibility for themselves, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The government won’t expect too much of people or disown them when they turn out to be human, but the government can’t be everyone’s keeper, Abbott said. In the end it’s personal behaviour, not governmental behaviour, which largely determines the rate of HIV/AIDS infections.

The comments were greeted with caution by CEO of ACON Stevie Clayton.

On the one hand it’s good to hear him acknowledging that -¦ we can’t expect gay men to use a condom every single time they have sex in 20 years of an epidemic. You need to be realistic about it and not blame them for the increase, Clayton told the Star.

But at the same time we do need to have strong leadership from the commonwealth and adequate funding to be able to deliver the programs to encourage safe sexual practices, she said.

Clayton strongly opposed Abbott’s plan to consider compulsory HIV testing for people undergoing routine medical procedures.

The federal government has also come under fire for the delay in presenting a 5th National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is currently undergoing a public consultation process.

Labor MP Tanya Plibersek and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations issued statements asking for better leadership, more funding and innovative programs.

The federal government announced yesterday it would provide a further $2 million funding for the Asia-Pacific region, and Prime Minister Howard drew praise last month at the APEC summit for advocating strong leadership on HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region.

AFAO president Darren Russell told the Star the prime minister should also be concerned with the low profile of HIV in Australia despite increases in HIV notifications.

World AIDS Day also saw a call from NAPWA for specific services aimed at HIV-positive women, as the 2005 theme is recognising women living and working with HIV.

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