M115 / MDC 85
20 September 1995
JOINT STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SENATOR GARETH EVANS, AND THE MINISTER FOR DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION AND PACIFIC ISLAND AFFAIRS, GORDON BILNEY MP
AUSTRALIAN AID TO MYANMAR
The president of the AIDS Society for Asia and the Pacific, Professor John Dwyer, is quoted saying, "Australia could offer much to Burma but not a cent of aid is being spent because of the ban on the military regime." In fact, in recognition of the growing problem of HIV/AIDS in Myanmar, the Australian Government has provided $742,000 for expenditure over the past two years to help combat the spread of the disease. The funds are being provided through Non-Government Organisations working in Myanmar, and through UNICEF.
Australia does not provide government-to-government assistance to Myanmar. This was suspended following the military's suppression of the pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988. However, in recognition of humanitarian needs, Australia also has in place a number of other programs to assist the people of Myanmar. In 1994/95 $3.5 million was provided to assist displaced persons, and to assist with health and education.
Fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a priority in Australia's development assistance programs in South East Asia. AusAID last month released a manual, Community Action on HIV: A Resource Manual for HIV Prevention and Care in an effort to assist HIV/AIDS and development NGOs and other agencies involved in implementing and managing HIV/AIDS projects in South East Asia. The manual, distributed widely in Australia and overseas, is based on the considerable experience Australia has developed in addressing HIV in Australia and, through its development cooperation program, in developing countries in Asia and Africa.
The South East Asia Regional Program of AusAID is also funding a project by World Vision which, in association with World Vision Myanmar, will assist local government and NGOs to control the spread of HIV among communities on the Thai/Burma border. AusAID support for this three-year project totals $974,000.
While we can understand Professor Dwyer's desire to draw attention to a major pandemic in our region, it would help if facts had been checked, including by The Age.