HIV/AIDS support agencies have welcomed provisions of the state government’s Tuesday night budget, while continuing to voice concerns about initiatives in the federal government’s budget, which was delivered in mid-May.

The president of the AIDS Council of NSW, Adrian Lovney, said the state government’s budget contained a number of initiatives which would benefit our communities and health promotion across the state.

The allocation of $10.9 million for the Special Assistance Subsidies Schemes -¦ will help ensure affordable and appropriate housing for people living with HIV/AIDS, he said. ACON, PLWH/A and BGF [the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation] are working closely in an advisory role with the Department of Housing on the review of the SASS scheme and assessment protocols.

The allocation of $731 million to community-based health services has also been welcomed by ACON, as has the boost to the Health Care Complaints Commission and the expansion of the Patient Support Service in rural and regional areas.

The HIV/AIDS sector has been less impressed with the federal government’s budget, however, and this week key organisations teamed with the NSW Council of Social Services and People with Disabilities (NSW) to release a statement of concern about proposed changes to the Disability Support Pension and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The statement, which has been directed towards the prime minister, argues that budget cuts will impact most severely on the disabled, the chronically and seriously ill.

The government has proposed major changes which will force thousands of Australians with disabilities off the pension and on to the Newstart Allowance. You don’t support HIV-positive people returning to work or education by reducing resources and increasing the stress on the disadvantaged. It flies in the face of everything we know about rehabilitation, said PLWH/A president John Robinson.

The signatories to the statement supported a review of the federal government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme but criticised the government’s reforms of the Scheme, announced as part of the budget.

We acknowledge the need for a system that is cost effective but also therapeutically effective, the statement reads. However, the rise in co-payments in the 2002-2003 Federal Budget sits outside any strategic review -¦ and represents an ill-considered approach to making PBS a more cost-effective and medically effective scheme.

Robinson said the recent HIV Futures 3 report on the health and wellbeing of people of living with HIV (produced by La Trobe university) signalled that 45 percent of HIV-positive people already experience difficulty with the costs of their medications.

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