THE Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has criticised Treasurer Joe Hockey’s announcement of a further cut to funding of Australia’s overseas aid program, arguing it would have an impact on HIV prevention programs in neighbouring Asian and Pacific nations.

The overseas aids cuts were made in Hockey’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) announcement on Monday.

AFAO executive director Rob Lake said he has written to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Commonwealth Government asking for a review of the cuts to the aid program.

Lake said AFAO operates an Australian Aid-funded program based in Bangkok, Thailand that works with affected communities in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and major cities across south-east Asia.

“AFAO and our members work to support HIV prevention, testing, treatment access and the human rights of people with HIV, gay men, transgender people, sex workers and people who inject drugs,” Lake said.

He added that the aid program has had “made major impacts in improving health, education and the lives of some of the poorest people” in Australia’s neighbouring countries.

“These funds have saved lives and have helped to protect human rights,” Lake said.

AFAO is also a member of the Australian Council for International Development, which yesterday launched #saveaustralianaid, a campaign to highlight the value and impact of the overseas aid program and to seek a commitment of support for the program from the government, businesses and the Australian community.

“The Melbourne [International] AIDS Conference, in part, showcased the impact of Australian Aid and its crucial role in fighting HIV,” Lake said.

“Australian government ministers made a commitment to lead the fight against HIV in our region.

“This is a poor start to the legacy of AIDS 2014.”

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