The Senate has heard the federal government has decided to stop funding two long running Indigenous sexual health programs without consolation or analysis despite the Top End facing a growing sexual health crisis.
Despite the Queensland Aid councils 2 spirited program and the Northern Territory Aids and Hepatitis Councils’ Aboriginal Sexual Health Program running f or 20 years addressing the high rate of sexually transmitted infections among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, both organisations were told last year they would have to seek alternative funding elsewhere to continue their operation after June 2017
This comes after the Department of Health did a desktop review of the programs which found limited evidence that these programs had any impact, according to the first assistant secretary for the department, Bobbi Campbell
Despite claims Queensland Aids Councils’ executive director Micheal Scott, his organisation had more than two decades of experience and community rapport, and their annual funding of $451 000 was a “drop in the ocean” for the work they did.
They employ four Indigenous staff and they work from a whole-of-community approach, and though they’re funded to work with Indigenous gay men and sistagirls they do remote outreach to Indigenous remote populations and to the entire community
“It is a really important service because we also do training for other organisations, such as Aboriginal medical services, on how to appropriately work with Indigen ous gay men and sistagirls.” Mr Scott said
During the estimates hearing department officials also pointed to the rising rates of STIs and HIV in Indigenous populations, particularly the remote communities where the two organisations work. While the rate of new cases of HIV among non-Indigenous men and women stabilised in the four years to 2015, the rate among Indigenous Men had doubled.
According to the University of New South Wales Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society, Aboriginal and Torres Strait men were twice as likely to have HIV then non Indigenous Men. It was also reported rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis were respectively three, ten and six times higher than the non-indigenous population in 2015.
The high rates of Syphillis cases is expected to rise in the Northern Territory throughout 2017 with more cases reported in January then the whole of 2014. The number of cases has increased last year to 229 to from just 14 in 2012.
Micheal Scott fears LBGTIQ people in communities will not reach out for help elsewhere once the 2 spirits programs closed saying “hey forgo health care because they’re not comfortable walking through the door, they fear they will be discriminated against”
The Labor MP Warren Snowdon said the government didn’t just fail to perform an evaluation but “ignored the fact that these organisations had been operating for 21 years and providing an important service”. He said the cost of prevention far outweighed the cost of treating someone with HIV, and accused the government of “wiping its hands” of the responsibility.