President George Bush’s call for a tripling of funds to combat HIV in the developing world -“ an under-reported by-product of his war-focused State of the Union address -“ has been welcomed by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO).

While the US$10 billion increase in HIV funding proposed by Bush has been earmarked for 14 nations in Africa and the Caribbean, AFAO has called upon the Australian government to likewise increase support for combating HIV in the Asia/Pacific region.

AFAO executive director Don Baxter said that HIV/AIDS had never before featured in a US president’s State of the Union address.

It has put the international HIV epidemic high on the American agenda in a way that it has never been before, Baxter said.

HIV is a developing economic, social and security risk, and an investment in the HIV epidemic in the region would be in Australia’s longer-term interests, he added.

We have potential disasters developing in our region and more investment now in countries such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Burma and China will help prevent them descending into the jeopardy that many African countries now face, Baxter said.

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