Former governor-general Sir William Deane inspired one of the best turnouts in the Gay and Lesbian Business Association’s history on Tuesday night.

The long-time social justice advocate and president of CARE Australia spoke about CARE’s work in HIV/AIDS research and treatment in South East Asia.

HIV/AIDS cases were rising at such an alarming rate in South East Asia, Deane said, the region could take over as the most devastated by the virus. CARE was working on education programs in rural areas to let people know about safe sexual practices.

In our own part of the world [South East Asia] more than 6,000,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS, Deane said.

The extent of the devastation on human happiness and human essence is, I think we all know, so vast that it really defies human comprehension.

Deane said the global fight against HIV/AIDS was seriously under-funded compared to the amount of money spent on other things -“ such as the war on terrorism.

It’s not to suggest that the fight against terrorism brought to a head by the murder of 3,000 people isn’t overwhelmingly important. But surely the fight against a disease that claims 8,000 people every day, every week of the year, particularly the underprivileged, is something that is at least as important.

Deane also spoke on the need to fight for social justice for less advantaged people -“ refugees and victims of war.

Words can be used in a sense to destroy compassion and decency in the community. We’ve seen that recently when terms such as -˜queue-jumper’ have been used to describe people who have reasonable claim to be here.

The former governor-general spoke at the Business Association dinner despite having to rush overseas the following morning on another pet project -“ helping homeless youth find their feet.

At six in the morning I’m leaving with a group of street kids for East Timor. We’re taking them there to visit a group of young kids in the orphanage that they’ve been helping to sponsor.

All proceeds from the dinner were donated to CARE, along with $500 raised in an auction of a Vietnamese safe-sex cartoon condom sticker signed by Deane.

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