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Indigenous health campaign in political limbo
One of the most successful campaigns to help tackle HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Indigenous and Islander communities in Queensland has been hampered by the state health minister’s refusal to deal with the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC).
The 2 Spirits program has had a long history of collaborating with Queensland Health but, while it works primarily as an independent body, it also operates in conjunction with QAHC.
Plans for suits, comic books and other strategies involving the program’s successful Condoman character (pictured) came to sudden halt following Health Minister Laurence Springborg’s announcement that QAHC would be defunded last year, according to 2 Spirits program manager Michael Scott.
In December, 2 Spirits was informed that direct funding to its own projects was impossible as long as it was linked with QAHC.
“2 Spirits was advised it would not be funded directly and the only way it could be would be for it to separate from Healthy Communities. 2 Spirits investigated this and rejected this concept,” Scott told the Star Observer.
Instead, several efforts were made to indirectly finance 2 Spirits by channelling funds through a third party who would pass those funds on to them. The health department, through the Communicable Diseases Branch (CDB), nominated Queensland Positive People (QPP) and Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) as the third parties and both organisations refused to accept money on 2 Spirits/QAHC’s behalf.
2 Spirits was informed in August last year that Springborg declined to distribute the character suits and comics (paid for by Queensland Health) to 2 Spirits.
“The minister refused to allow any resources paid for by Queensland Health to be distributed to Healthy Communities,” Scott said.
Springborg also refused to print comic books that included QAHC’s logo despite the organisation owning the copyright for Condoman, the organisation said.
2 Spirits finally managed to obtain the suits and comic books earlier this year.
The health minister’s office declined to comment on the allegations.