Monday night’s episode of panel discussion juggernaut Q&A was always going to be important.
Held at the Melbourne Town Hall to coincide with the International AIDS Conference, the program was shadowed by Friday’s horrific missile attack on MH17, which killed several delegates travelling to the conference.
“You’re right. We have to save them if we can. Because my son is a drug user. And I don’t know what to do.”
Q&A marked the tragedy with 30 seconds of piercing silence before moving on to discussing the big issues of the conference – including the search for a cure or vaccine for HIV.
The stunningly qualified and perceptive panel included Former High Court Judge Michael Kirby, co-discoverer of HIV Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, writer and HIV positive activist Nic Holas and former Liberal Senator Amanda Vanstone.
Yet the show was arguably stolen by Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi, who has faced considerable backlash in her home country as the chair of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
With over 600,000 people currently living with AIDS in Indonesia, Mboi was asked if she was being stymied in her efforts to distribute clean needles or condoms by religious figures in Indonesia.
“Do we want to kill them? Or do we want to save them? The easiest way is to kill them.”
“Oh yes,” she said. “When the President appointed me Secretary of the National AIDS Comission, the first thing I did was indeed invite all of them who were against [fighting AIDS], as well as the ones who were for it.”
Watch the moving clip below
“But we knew this was a very difficult question, because the law criminalised drug use, so there was a big resistance. So I said okay, lets stop for a moment. We have 330,000 young people who are injecting drugs. Previously in some districts it’s already 67 per cent HIV positive, Hep C, as well as syphilis, etc. What do we want to do? Do we want to kill them? Or do we want to save them? The easiest way is to kill them.
“Because if you don’t do anything, we keep on fighting among us, they will die. They will die of overdose, they will die of AIDS, they will die of Hep C. And if they get imprisoned they will die even faster. Because they get beaten up.
“But we are the government. Where were we when our kids became victims of the drug pushers? And there was total silence. Then a policeman came and said, ‘You’re right. We have to save them if we can. Because my son is a drug user. And I don’t know what to do.’
“And that, my friends, changed the whole atmosphere. The discussion.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the Melbourne Town Hall.