Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced the appointment of James Gilling as Australia’s Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Carr said the role has been expanded to cover tuberculosis and malaria to reflect the major health challenges facing Australia’s region.

“This role shows Australia’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” Carr said.

“Millions of people continue to be affected by these life-threatening diseases, which in 2010 alone claimed more than 3.5 million lives. Unfortunately, those suffering the most tend to be the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world.”

In the Asia Pacific region in 2010 there were 30 million cases and 42,000 deaths as a result of malaria alone so Australia’s support is vital.

Gilling is the first assistant director general in the Policy and Sector Division of AusAID, where he is responsible for policy coordination on HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB issues.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Agricultural Economics from Nottingham University and a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from Oxford University.

Gilling replaces Murray Proctor, who represented Australia as HIV/AIDS ambassador from 2007.

“With more than 25 years experience in development and social research, Mr Gilling will represent Australia in promoting effective responses to HIV/AIDS and other global health challenges,” Carr said.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations has welcomed the appointment.

“Given Mr Gilling’s experience in foreign aid and development, we’re confident he will be a strong advocate for prevention and treatment programs that target these three diseases,” AFAO executive director Rob Lake said.

“Australia has a superb record of providing leadership on HIV prevention, treatment and the legal and human rights that enable HIV prevention and treatment to work effectively and efficiently. AusAID, the ambassador and Australia’s development partners have a tremendous opportunity to build on that by promoting treatment, human rights and prevention programs in the region.

“The next few years present significant challenges in meeting our goals to reduce HIV transmission and increase access to HIV treatments in our region. In particular, the escalating HIV epidemics amongst gay men and men who have sex with men in all the major cities across the region requires urgent attention.”

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