Monday 21 May 2012
Healthy Communities (QAHC) to be defunded
Healthy Communities, an AFAO member, currently receives $2.6 million in grants from Queensland Health to help combat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections in the gay community, as well as running programs for other health issues, such as reducing smoking and drug use.
In his media release, Minister Springborg said annual HIV diagnosis rates had doubled in the last decade: from 2.7 per 100,000 population in 2000, to 5.4 in 2010. He attributed this to a "failure in public health policy and public health outcomes" and said he would immediately move to re-direct the grants into the control of a Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS.
Healthy Communities, in their response to the Minister's announcement, has said that they 'welcome a review of HIV prevention strategies' and want to 'work with Minister Springborg on building a more effective HIV response'. However they challenged the assertion that their programs were failing. Healthy Communities is funded for HIV prevention with gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM), and gay men have actually decreased as a proportion of people diagnosed with HIV
over the past 10 years.
The announcement has been met with dismay by Healthy Communities supporters, HIV services and GLBT advocates and organisations around Australia, who say that defunding Healthy Communities will jeopardise the HIV response in Queensland.
Negative outcomes would include loss of one-to-one support, outreach, workshops and resources around HIV and safe sex for gay men and MSM in Queensland. Defunding of Healthy Communities would also seriously jeopardise the work of the 2 Spirits sexual health program with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls.
AFAO Executive Officer Rob Lake said Healthy Communities’ work in Queensland was crucial and needed to be maintained. AFAO is urging the Queensland Government to work with Healthy Communities and utilise their knowledge and expertise.
"AFAO will assist in any way possible to facilitate cooperation between Healthy Communities and the State Government to ensure the knowledge and expertise built by the Association is not lost to the Queensland community, ” he said.
The Australian Medical Association supports Springborg's plan on the grounds that current strategies aren't working and the rise in Queensland's HIV rate means it is time to try a new tactic.
Meanwhile, the blogosphere is speculating that the move to defund Healthy Communities is ideologically driven, citing evidence such as the recent move to block civil unions in the state; or that it betrays a lack of understanding of HIV health promotion.
Healthy Communities has links to a range of actions its supporters can take to try and reinstate funding, including a petition and a donations page.
Save Healthy Communities Facebook event
Public Health Association of Australia Media Release - 24 May
Healthy Communities Speaks the Truth about HIV Infections - Healthy Communities Media Release 23 May
Way forward for HIV prevention funding in Queensland - Health Communities Statement 21 May
Vital work of Healthy Communities must be saved AFAO Media Release 21 May
Funding Cut to Queensland’s only LGBT Health Organisation - Healthy Communities Media Release 20 May