Campaign aims to restore funds to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health programs
Organisations from the NT and Queensland are joining forces to reverse the funding cuts made by the Federal Government to Indigenous sexual health programs.
The Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC) and the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) were told they would lose funding to QuAC’s 2 Spirits Program and the NTAHC Aboriginal Sexual Health Program from June 30.
Each program represents a longstanding effort by the councils to address the disproportionate instance of STI rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland and the Northern Territory, with the impending funding cuts set to draw these efforts to an indefinite close.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have STI rates up to 20 x higher than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and constitute 60% of people living with chronic hepatitis B in the Northern Territory.
Teams in Darwin, Alice Springs, Cairns and Brisbane have been working both regionally and remotely, assisting specific populations that often experience difficulties accessing mainstream health services.
Michael Scott, executive director of the Queensland AIDS Council, said that without the 2 Spirits Program many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and Sistergirls will have nowhere to go.
“The risks to their mental and sexual health are significant and the outcome will be devastating,” he said.
Kim Gates, executive director of the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council said:
“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer communities have unique healthcare needs that relate to addressing their sexuality and gender identity concerns, and they face significant levels of stigma, discrimination and social exclusion.
“The impact these funding cuts will potentially have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ community members, particularly Sistergirls and Brotherboys, has not been considered”.
QuAC and NTAHC have started a petition on Change.org aimed at reversing these funding cuts so that that the 2 Spirits and Aboriginal Sexual Health programs can continue after June 30, 2017.
They are also running a social media campaign operating under #LGBTIBlackLivesMatter