Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

The newly elected conservative Coalition (the LNP) in Queensland is on a mission to hew and hack money off public programs in order to strait-jacket a supposedly unhinged deficit.

The Campbell Newman led Coalition has only been in power for a few weeks, yet their axes are overheating with the frenzied chopping and felling.

One of the first healthy trees to be felled was the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities. The agency has been stripped of its total Government funding of $2.5 million per annum. The money is to be sucked back into a Ministerial Advisory Group that will be established to review general HIV strategies.

This agency, formerly known as the Queensland AIDS Council, found out about the fatal cut via the media. This cut means the total withdrawal of all the funds for gay men’s HIV prevention activities via the agency.

This would appear to be a strange process if we lived in an apolitical world. Would it not be better to review the strategies before deciding to defund them all? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to give agencies some feedback on their direction and performance before whacking them over the head with a Government’s philosophical bent!

In my days before children and generalised chaos, I worked for over 10 years as a psychologist in the drug and alcohol field. One of those years I was seconded to the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and S-xual Health Unit of Queensland Health. I was the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Coordinator for Queensland with the focus on HCV transmitted by injecting drug use.

Those were the days ;). Being the HCV coordinator was one of the most stressful jobs I have ever been in.

Our Unit and all the agencies we funded targeted some of the most vulnerable people in our society: drug addicts (injecting drug users or IDU’s), gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, indigenous IDU’s, s-x workers, and others.

The strategies we use to reduce the transmission of deadly diseases like HIV and HCV in these groups are never popular with the general population; but they are proven to be affective. Strategies like Needle and Syringe Programs, peer education (where drug users, for example, are educated and provided with resources to educate their peers in the safer use of drugs), condom distribution at events, and explicit resources targeting these groups.

Some of the materials we helped develop and fund would horrify your average Joe. But here’s the thing – the resources are for the target groups, not the general population. We understand that the general population does not want people to inject drugs at all. But if at this point in their life they can’t stop using, isn’t it better if we strive to keep them free from communicable diseases.

These diseases not only have a horrific impact on the person infected, but they can also spread into the general population and cost the community vast sums of money to treat and contain.

Here’s a message from Healthy Communities. You can find more information at their website here and the agency has outlined a number of ways to fight this attack on the vulnerable of Queensland.

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Save Healthy Communities
Our only LGBT health and wellbeing organisation, the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (‘Healthy Communities’), is to be defunded by Queensland Health it was announced today.

Healthy Communities held contracts with Queensland Health for HIV prevention work with gay men and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs work with the LGBT community.

Healthy Communities is a 28-year-old state-wide organisation, with offices in Cairns, Maroochydore and Brisbane and employes 35 full and part-time staff, 26 of whom will lose their jobs as a result.

Our HIV funding from Queensland Health allows us to deliver much needed HIV prevention services including; one-to-one support about HIV & safe sex, HIV prevention skills building workshops, condom & lube distribution, sexual health information line, printed resources on HIV prevention and sexual health for gay men and social marketing campaigns promoting safe sex.

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