Brisbane’s Sexual Health Clinic on Roma Street, which offers services that explicitly deal with people living with HIV (PLHIV), will be effectively closed, the Metro North Hospital Board has announced.
In a move that has already drawn criticism from the LGBTI community, the clinic and its specific HIV department Clinic 2 (formerly known as the AIDS Medical Unity), will be “targeted” to only dealing with more complex cases, according to the Metro Health chairman Dr Paul Alexander. Alexander and Metro North Health authorities said that most of the clinics’ services are redundant, as clients can obtain the same services from GPs.
“The provision of primary care sexual health services are appropriately managed by the primary health sector, such as GPs, who are funded to provide this type of care,” Alexander said in a statement.
The clinics have, for years, offered a free, confidential walk-in service to people concerned about exposure to HIV, other STIs and emergency contraception. They have been a vital source of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for members of the LGBTI community who fear recent exposure to HIV, outside of overwhelmed hospital emergency rooms.
Clinic 2 is a dedicated department providing immediate care and testing for patients exposed to the virus, along with on-going treatment for PLHIV. Their team includes health care professionals who are experts in HIV and they provide education, medical and nursing support. The clinic has a specialist HIV pharmacy that serves as a major dispensary of HIV medications for Brisbane.
The clinic also conducts HIV research in efforts to provide better treatment as part of clinical trials and improve overall care to PLHIV. Most the clinic’s clientele consist of people who either do not have access to or can afford a regular GP.
It’s estimated that 33 of 45 jobs could go as the sexual health clinic is closed and Clinic 2’s services are cut back.
Alexander confirmed that some sexual health services would be “realigned to other providers” but services to HIV (from such providers as Clinic 2) would be scaled back but not cut completely, as specialist services would still be provided to more complex cases involving PLHIV.
Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) executive director Paul Martin has expressed concern about Metro North’s decision.
“The decision to close the Brisbane Sexual Health Clinic has happened without consultation with partner organisations, service users or the wider community,” Martin told the Star Observer.
“If the closure does indeed go ahead, there will need to be careful and quick planning with partner organisations (including QAHC) to try and respond to the gap in services.”
Martin also offered support for the dozens of health care workers that will now find themselves out of a job.
“QAHC feels for the highly skilled and experienced staff affected by this decision and hopes that their talents can be used elsewhere.”