This week’s federal budget contains both good and bad news for the country’s LGBT communities, according to NSW health body ACON.

Topping off the list of bad news is the change to the disability support pension, which will affect some people who are living with HIV/ AIDS.

People currently on a disability support pension can work up to 30 hours a week before the pension cuts out.

Under the new system those hours have been halved, so if you are assessed to be capable of working more than 15 hours a week you won’t be entitled to any pension.

It looks pretty terrible for people who are HIV-positive and are newly going onto pensions, ACON’s chief executive Stevie Clayton said.

The changes will come into effect on 1 July 2006 and will not affect people who are currently receiving pension payments.

Clayton was also concerned people living with HIV/ AIDS would be assessed by Health Services Australia on their fitness to work.

So you’ll be assessed by someone who’s not an expert in HIV, she said.

ACON estimated someone who was HIV-positive and currently on a disability support pension had $120 a week to live on after paying for rent and medication.

If they were assessed as being able to work more than 15 hours a week they would be moved to the Newstart program, receive less money and constantly have to look for work.

There was more bad news with the increase in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net, meaning people would have to pay for 52 scripts rather than 50 before the safety net kicked in.

For people on low incomes, that would equal $52 per year more than they currently paid, Clayton said.

The good news is that the budget made reference to the national HIV, Hepatitis C and STI strategies that have been in development for several years.

This meant the government was making a clear commitment to them, Clayton said.

But we are yet to see a commitment to dollars to go with the strategy implementation, she said.

So we’re waiting with some nervousness to see whether the HIV money will be just stretched further or whether we are going to see some separate funding allocated to it.

The health department is expected to release more details on these strategies in coming days.

Clayton was pleased to see more money go toward dementia care, which will assist those with AIDS dementia, and the announcement of one-off payments to be made to carers.

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