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South Australia shuts down LGBT HIV health group

The AIDS Council of South Australia has closed down after being denied further funding by the South Australian State Government despite a new board and administrator halving the organization’s debts
ACSA was the major supplier of sex education to LGBTs in South Australia
Photo by ACSA

The AIDS Council of South Australia (ACSA) was told on Monday that the South Australian (SA) Government had rejected a funding proposal put forward by the group’s administrator which would have seen the community health organization return to financial health.

‘Unfortunately we must advise that ACSA, all staff and services, has ceased to trade, including the Current Awareness Service,’ ACSA posted on its website on Monday.

ACSA went into voluntary administration in July this year with the approval of SA Health as a result of financial mismanagement that occurred last year under its previous board of directors.

But under a new board and a new CEO appointed in February this year, ACSA halved its deficit and was well on the way to returning to financial health.

As a result of the Government's decision means ACSA will no longer provide programs such as sex education, condom distribution or Adelaide's largest clean needle distribution service and all of its staff have been made redundant.

The board of ACSA are not just concerned about the services that will no longer be delivered to South Australia’s LGBT community but also the effect its closure will have on the many community organizations that relied on its help.

‘ACSA's Board firmly believes that it's its closure is not only unnecessary in financial terms - each HIV transmission prevented saves the community thousands of dollars in health care costs - but also endangers other vital LGBTI programs within South Australia, including the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service (GLCS) and the SA Gay & Lesbian Community Library and Archives,’ the board said in a statement.

‘Other community groups will no longer have a meeting place, including the Gay & Lesbian Immigration Task Force, the cultural men’s group The Uranian Society, the social support group Bear Men of Adelaide, the Transsexual Support group and the Parkestone Association. ‘

Australia’s peak body representing LGBT community health groups the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) expressed dismay at the South Australian Government's decision to withdraw funding - forcing ACSA to close.

AFAO Executive Director, Rob Lake said the decision was hasty and unnecessary.

‘We are shocked and disappointed by this decision,’ Lake said, ‘It is a complete surprise and has been made by the Minister with no consultation.’

‘The AIDS Council of SA has worked cooperatively with the State Government to regain a sustainable financial footing, only to have the rug pulled from under them. This decision will affect HIV prevention for gay men in South Australia. It is unnecessary and ought to be reversed.’

SA Health will be offering contracts to provide the services that ACSA had been providing to other NGOs in the state.

ACSA supporters have been asked to sign a petition on the Change.org website calling on SA Health Minister Jack Snelling and SA Premier Jay Weatherill to reverse their decision.

The decision follows on the Queensland Government decision to defund its state LGBT community health group QAHC – though that organization continues to exist thanks to some federal funding.

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