One of Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg’s nine-member Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on HIV/AIDS has resigned after just one meeting.
Dr Wendell Rosevear OAM, a Brisbane-based HIV/AIDS physician and director of the Stonewall Medical Centre, submitted a resignation letter to the MAC Wednesday morning, saying he believed the minister’s strategy was to get the committee to give his prearranged agenda credibility.
“I cannot be a rubber stamp,” Rosevear wrote in his resignation letter.
“There are only two ways to prevent HIV, condoms or trust. Both can break and so understanding is needed if they are to work.”
Among several reasons stated for his resignation, Rosevear said the MAC had not been consulted on a new controversial government advertising campaign for HIV prevention, which features the Grim Reaper.
“They designed that TV ad before we had the first meeting,” Rosevear told the Star Observer.
“I was shocked and I thought there was clear evidence that they had their own agenda.”
Rosevear also claimed that, despite a strong consensus by the committee, Springborg had refused to engage in a dialogue about re-establishing a workable relationship with the state’s only LGBT health and wellbeing organisation, the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC), even if he wanted to name conditional funding arrangements.
“[QAHC] are already the community accepted, trusted and resourced organisation. They’ve got a diverse volunteer base with good credibility. People at risk from HIV will talk to them,” he said.
“I was told there was no way [Springborg] would fund an organisation which had ‘failed’.”
Springborg appointed the HIV/AIDS MAC following his highly controversial decision to axe funding for QAHC, for what he said was a failure to reduce HIV rates and too much of a focus on “political issues”.
Rosevear said he’d also attempted to discuss Queensland Health grant contracts, which were recently updated by the state government to include clauses preventing non-government organisations advocating for state and federal legislative change.
He said the minister’s office refused to add the item to the committee’s agenda for discussion.
“It was very evident that the minister’s office wanted to control the agenda of the MAC,” he said.
“I won’t participate in a process that silences people or works against establishing that cooperative partnership even if there’s a need to respect differences.”
A spokesman for the health minister confirmed Rosevear’s resignation.
“Dr Rosevear was appointed to the MAC at the request of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland,” the spokesman told Star Observer.
“The minister is disappointed to receive his letter of resignation, but remains committed to the cause of advancing awareness of HIV/AIDS across Queensland.”
In relation to the HIV campaign, the spokesman said the MAC was advised on August 1 that the ads were going to be made as an early initiative of the new government and that production of those ads commenced August 10.
“There is now a new focus on HIV, driven by the dialog surrounding the creation of the MAC and the current TV campaign,” he said.
Announcing the formation of the MAC in July, Springborg said it would take charge of the nearly $2.6 million budget formerly allocated to QAHC.
“While other groups now receive reduced levels of Queensland Health grant funding, the full amount of QAHC funding was retained for allocation to AIDS/HIV awareness,” the spokesman said.
“The future allocation of Queensland Health grant funding will be driven by health outcomes.”
The MAC is chaired by Cairns Sexual Health Service director Dr Darren Russell and its remaining panellists include former Big Brother housemate ‘Farmer’ Dave Graham.
Dr Rosevear helped establish the original Queensland AIDS Council (which later became QAHC) and was awarded Brisbane’s Australia Day Citizen of the Year award in 1996, as well as the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) national award for Best Individual Contribution to Health Care in Australia.
He received an Order of Australia Medal in 1998.