HIV/AIDS public health programs could lose $4 million in federal government funding during the next four years.

The federal government announced this week it would reduce NSW Health’s funding for public health projects by $13 million over four years.

NSW Health receives federal government funding to cover some of the cost of HIV and other health programs. The funds are distributed among organisations by the state government.

A NSW Health spokeswoman told Sydney Star Observer the funding cuts could have significant impact on HIV services.

A $1 million funding cut every year over four years would equate to the same thing as perhaps 50,000 HIV tests currently conducted free of charge for NSW residents, she said.

ACON president Adrian Lovney told the Star the cuts would be a severe blow to services for people with HIV.

Recent rises in HIV infections demanded more rather than less government funding, he said.

The Canadian government just announced a substantial increase in HIV funding to respond to the increase in infections and here we see the federal government in Canberra attempting to do the opposite, Lovney said.

State-funded services such as PEP could be wound back to cover the shortfall, as well as services offered by associations like PLWHA (NSW), Lovney said. Free HIV testing at venues such as the Albion Street Centre could also be constrained (although HIV tests would remain covered by Medicare).

A spokeswoman for Health minister Tony Abbott told Sydney Star Observer there were a number of factors determining each state’s funding, including population numbers, levels of mortality and socio-economic factors. When asked whether the rise in NSW’s HIV infection rates was significant, the spokeswoman said that’s one disease.

You’ve got one lobby group calling you about one disease, the spokeswoman said.

What about kidney disease, what about heart disease, what about cancer? It’s not as simple as just pulling out one disease.

They [NSW] get a pool of money and they can determine how they spend it. So if they don’t think that they should spend it on HIV funding, then that’s completely up to them.

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