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Protests planned as Qld govt pulls HIV prevention funding
PROTESTS are being planned against a Queensland government decision to pull $2.5 million in funds from an HIV awareness and support group, Healthy Communities.
State Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday announced the decision to cut funds to the group, saying it had presided over a rising incidence of HIV.
The rate of HIV diagnoses had doubled in the past decade from 2.7 per 100,000 population in 2000, to 5.4 per 100,000 in 2010, he said.
“I refuse to turn a blind eye to what are obviously ineffective campaigns at reducing HIV diagnosis rates,” Mr Springborg said.
He announced that the government would create a Ministerial advisory committee on HIV/AIDS.
Healthy Communities executive director Paul Martin said the group’s contract required it to provide advocacy on lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues and the government money went towards funding for HIV prevention among gay men.
“It is unfair to blame Healthy Communities for the rise in HIV over the past 10 years, when we are only a relatively small player,” he said.
By this morning more than 1100 people had pledged to attend a 30 May protest rally in Brisbane against the government move.
The Australian Federation of AIDS organisations executive officer Rob Lake said Healthy Communities' work was a “textbook example” of best practice.
Queensland AMA president Dr Richard Kidd welcomed the new advisory committee but said he was “not strongly supportive” of funding being axed.
“Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he said. However, given the rise in new diagnoses of HIV he believed that the direction of current HIV prevention should be reviewed.
“We need to urgently identify what’s wrong with the current campaign as … most of the increase in HIV is in gay men and … they seem to be ignoring the messages,” he told MO.
Dr Kidd also said greater awareness was needed of the potential threat from heterosexually transmitted HIV in regional areas, linked to the fly-in, fly-out culture of the mining industry – which included flying out for “sex weekends in Thailand” and the flying in of foreign prostitutes.
Anecdotal reports suggested a rise in STIs including repeat infections of gonnorhoea and syphilis among young mothers whose husbands worked in the mines, he said.