Minister axes funding for Healthy Communities

Minister axes funding for Healthy Communities

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has pulled $2.5 million in funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness organization Healthy Communities, after figures showed that the diagnosis rate for HIV in Queensland doubled between 2000—2010.

Brisbane HQ for QAHC

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities has been forced to cut 26 staff

The Queensland Association of Healthy Communities, a Queensland based organization dedicated to promoting safe sex and preventing HIV/AIDS in the gay community, has lost its government funding.

The announcement that the organization was set to lose $2.5 million in funding from the government was published in the Courier-Mail on 20 May. QAHC claims they were given no prior notice to this.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg issued claims that the organization was not meeting the brief in helping to stop the prevention of the HIV/AIDS virus in the gay community in Queensland.

“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, ” Mr. Springborg said in a recent statement.

Figures from Queensland Health’s 2009 report on HIV/AIDS have shown that the HIV diagnosis rate has doubled in 10 years, from 2.7 people per 100,000 in the year 2000, to 5.4 people in 2010.

Funding was officially revoked on August 20. As a result, Healthy Communities offices in Cairns, Maroochydore and Brisbane now have reduced office hours. Twenty-six jobs have been cut, leaving the state-wide organization with just nine staff members.

The new operating hours for Healthy Communities

A petition on aimed at Lawrence Springborg to stop the funding cut quickly gained momentum, gaining 6,651 signatures — this was ultimately unsuccessful, however, and closed after the funding cut. The closed petition can be viewed here.

Previously, QAHC included one-to-one support, HIV prevention skills building workshops, condom distribution, social marketing campaigns, printed resources and peer education amongst HIV prevention services that Queensland Health purchased — before the funding cut.

Healthy Communities came to prominence in May 2011 after it’s ‘Rip’n’Roll’ campaign, which featured a real-life gay couple handling an unopened condom packet, caused 275 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau from groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby.

As a result of the funding cut, all gay men’s HIV preventative measures and activities carried out by the QAHC has ceased. “It was only a matter of time before they started grinding away at all the progress that has been made… How easily it could all be undone, ” said David Andersen, a member of the UQ Queer Collective, a university based organization that provides support to LGBT students.

“We need our own support organizations for our own particular needs. They are aiming to remove entirely the only support organization for a vulnerable community to be replaced with, well, nothing really. ”

Paul R. Martin, the executive director of Healthy Communities has since responded to Minister Springborg’s statements. “Surely it would be more sensible to conduct a review of HIV strategies in Queensland first, then decide on where funding should go, rather than remove funding from one organization — ours — and sort things out later. ”

The Queensland government has instead announced it will be forming a Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS in order to review and better redirect campaigns towards HIV prevention and awareness.