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Queensland delivers on threat to reroute AIDS funding

Queensland delivers on threat to reroute AIDS funding

The Australian state of Queensland has delivered on its threat to set up a Ministerial Advisory Committee to direct where money to combat the spread of HIV should go after it defunded the state’s only LGBT community health organization, and has now announced the composition of the committee.

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg will now direct $2.6 million in funding it previously gave to the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) to the advisory committee to distribute, though its supporters are continuing to campaign against the decision.

Springborg said the group had been too political and had watched over a rise in HIV transmissions in Queensland at a time when other states had seen theirs fall in explaining the need to redirect funding in May.

‘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 told the Courier-Mail.

According to the 2011 Kirby Institute Surveillance Report, Queensland’s HIV diagnosis rate increased to 5.4 per 100,000 people in 2010, almost doubling from 2.8 in 2001. Over the same period, other states apart from WA recorded a decline or relatively stable infection rates.

However the rise had mostly been among heterosexuals – not the populations QAHC had been funded to serve and Queensland had been spending the least per person of any state in Australia to combat HIV.

The committee will be headed by the Director of the Cairns Sexual Health Service, Dr Darren Russell, and will include a group of other HIV health experts and social researchers as well as advocates for sex workers, LGBTs and people with HIV.

Representing the LGBT community will be ‘Farmer’ Dave Graham, a Queensland model and farmer who came out on national television during the 2006 Australian series of Big Brother.

Graham has since used his public profile to advocate for LGBTs living in rural and regional Australia.

The establishing of the Ministerial Advisory Committee is part of a wider wave of setbacks for the LGBT community in Queensland, with official ceremonies being scrapped from the state’s civil unions scheme, the downgrading of the scheme to a relationship registry, the banning of surrogacy for same-sex couples and the government’s refusal to remove the so-called ‘gay panic defense’ from Queensland law under which murderers have sought to have their charges downgraded to manslaughter by claiming their victims made a homosexual advance.