The only LGBT health agency in the Australian state of Queensland is ‘putting out an international distress call’ following the news that the state’s new LNP (conservative) government is cutting its funding.
Health minister Lawrence Springborg said the cut in funds was in response to an increase in HIV prevalence in the state and what he said was a failure in public health policy.
‘I refuse to throw good money after bad and I refuse to turn a blind eye to what are obviously ineffective campaigns at reducing HIV diagnosis rates,’ Springborg said, reported in the Courier Mail.
Queensland HIV diagnosis rates doubled from 2.7 per 100,000 people in 2000, to 5.4 in 2010.
Springborg intends to redirect the $2.5million (Australian dollars, $2.46million,€1.92million) that had been channelled through Queensland Association for Healthier Communities (QAHC) to set up a ministerial advisory committee ‘made up of people who are well connected to all the communities at risk in Queensland focused on AIDS awareness and prevention,’ he said to 612 ABC Brisbane radio.
Paul Martin, executive director of QAHC said they are exclusively funded to improve LGBT health in a range of areas, including HIV, and ‘It’s not appropriate for us to be held accountable for the whole HIV response.’
The Courier Mail reports that HIV among heterosexual people in Queensland is rising and blames ‘drunken lads' holidays in Thailand and Indonesia, involving unprotected sex with prostitutes’. This is the view of the head of the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association, Richard Kidd, who said an increase in population in the state was another contributor to the rise.
‘Queensland started from a place where the number of people in our state per 100,000 was significantly less than just about any other state in Australia and all that’s happening is at one level, we’re starting to come up to the national average,’ said Dr Kidd.
Dr Kidd also said he agreed with the government’s change of approach to HIV prevention funding. ‘If we are going to keep doing what we have done then we are just going to get the same result which at the moment isn’t good enough,’ he said.
Spokesperson for Queensland Greens, Andrew Bartlett, called the redirection of funding irresponsible. ‘It is highly irresponsible to take such a major step, which will cause significant disruption to HIV prevention services, before properly assessing what better alternative, if any, there might be,’ he said.