Former High Court judge Michael Kirby has used his address at the 20th International AIDS Conference to call for a renewed commitment to research.

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby has used his opening address at a conference in Melbourne to urge Prime Minister Tony Abbott to advance the AIDS response at the G20 Summit.

Mr Kirby, in his speech at the 20th International AIDS Conference, asked Mr Abbott to reach out to the political leaders at November’s G20 summit in Brisbane and in the meetings of the Commonwealth of Nations to break the deadly logjam of inaction or wrong actions.

The AIDS campaigner, who has served the UN in a range of capacities, also called for a renewed commitment to HIV research to honour the legacy of the six researchers and activists killed in the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash.

“How cruel and self-centred these murders appear to be,” Mr Kirby said on Sunday.

“How reckless and outrageous to make such means available to zealots.

“How much more pain do we have to face in the world of AIDS before we are through this bleak experience? Be in no doubt that irrational cruelty is, and will remain, our companion on this journey.”

Mr Kirby said the researchers and lobbyists who died had devoted their lives to scientific research, patient care, law reform, activism and human rights.

He said they would want the HIV community to pick up our “shattered spirits”.

“They would demand that we renew and redouble our efforts'” he said.

“They would see those efforts as small but vital pieces of the great human puzzle that seeks to build a world that respects human rights, and heralds the day when the suffering of AIDS will be over.”

Mr Kirby also reflected on the 12 “greatly loved friends” whom he lost in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, adding that he has also “tasted the bitter dregs of discrimination and hatred” because of his sexuality.

Describing the prime minister as an “unabashed conservative”, he said conservatives can be vital allies in the struggle against AIDS.

He praised Mr Abbott’s commitment to the needle exchange scheme that has virtually eliminated HIV among injecting drug users.

He also said the prime minister had “cleared the decks” for changes to allow for home testing of HIV, which will get HIV positive people rapidly diagnosed and on to therapy.

“As prime minister his government has endorsed the seventh Australian National HIV Strategy, targeted to eliminate HIV transmission in this country by 2020,” he said.