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HIV Experts Criticize Australian PM's Suggestion for Ban on Entry of HIV-infected

in Victoria last year involved migrants. But of them, 50 were from interstate and 20 from overseas.

Victorian AIDS Council president Mike Kennedy said it was his understanding that 11 of the 20 overseas immigrants were born in Australia or New Zealand, leaving only nine people with HIV who entered the state from overseas. 'That number is incredibly low,' he said. 'In Australia the bulk of the epidemic is gay men.'

Meanwhile Justice Michael Kirby,a prominent Australian judge, told a HIV focused conference in Auckland early this week that the Pacific region no longer had the luxury of 'living in denial'.

He urged Pacific leaders and policy makers to tackle the difficult and controversial issues.

Some strategies for combating HIV such as promotion and knowledge of condoms and decriminalisation of sex workers were controversial and therefore often given less priority, Justice Kirby said.

'But a lot of painful and difficult steps need to be taken, ' he stressed.

There was no cure on the horizon for HIV and the expanding cost of anti-retroviral drugs would put increasing pressure on the international community and national institutions. More time and effort needed to be spent stopping people from getting infected, he said.

The 15 Pacific countries involved are Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, Niue, Tokelau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu and Cook Islands.

UNAIDS in its 2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic identified an estimated 78,000 people in the Pacific - including from Australia and New Zealand - were living with HIV in 2005, representing an increase of 12,000 from 2003.
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