QAIHC Chair Elizabeth Adams is calling on the Australian Government to take a lead from the Queensland Government and review its decision to withdraw funding of $2.3 million of funding to sexual health programs in New South Wales Aboriginal and Strait Islander communities.
Ms Adams said the Palaszczuk Government recently announced $15.7 million over three years to address a spike in syphilis and other STIs in North Queensland, which worsened after the Newman Government withdrew funding for sexual health programs.
“It is incredible that such vital funding is being withdrawn at a time when rates of STIs are at an all-time high among some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities nationally, and when this population is more mobile than ever, so the risk of infections spreading across borders is correspondingly higher,” Ms Adams said.
“I urge the Australian Government to overturn the decision to cut funding and look at adopting a similar direction to that outlined in the Queensland Government’s ‘North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sexually Transmissible Infections Action Plan 2016-2021’ because it is sound; based on consultation; consideration of data; is culturally appropriate; and has achievable goals that benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“We only have to look at data from the Kirby Institute Surveillance Report that shows HIV infection rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations are highest in Queensland and New South Wales, so the Australian Government really needs to question why it would choose to cut back on funding right now.
“This decision will inevitably reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to services, including awareness and prevention education, testing, management and treatment, and there will be increased notifications of infections.”
Ms Adams said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Community Controlled Health Services and other organisations involved in sexual health service provision, education and awareness relied on funding to provide vital, culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people.
“What we need is a coordinated approach and commitment nation-wide; not a withdrawal of commitment to one state,” he said.
“There has to be close coordination and partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services and hospital and health services, and this can only happen if it is supported.”