The North Shore’s only HIV/ AIDS-specific community services provider faces closure within months after NSW Health said it would cut funding by nearly two-thirds.

NorthAIDS, which runs the Myrtle Place centre at Milsons Point and a short-term accommodation service at Dee Why, is set to lose $110,000 in annual funding as of mid-2006.

Northern Sydney Central Coast Health (NSCCH), a division of NSW Health that currently gives NorthAIDS about $180,000 each year, told the HIV service provider about the funding cuts in July.

It said the funding reduction followed cuts to its own AIDS budget and a review process of existing budgetary arrangements.

A NSCCH spokesperson said in a statement this week the decision followed a recent NSW Health review of AIDS funding for area health services.

As a result of the review, HIV/ AIDS funding to Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service has been reduced, the spokesperson said.

NorthAIDS has already seen funding from NSW Health reduced by $70,000 over the past three years.

After the latest budget reduction, it will receive about $70,000 in annual funding from NSW Health as of mid-next year.

But NorthAIDS chair David Back told Sydney Star Observer the organisation would not survive until then.

Without the funding we will not be able to continue, he said.

We will have to close the doors of Myrtle Place on Christmas Eve. And [the six-person accommodation service in] Dee Why will probably have to close around March.

Apart from limited fundraising earnings, NSCCH grants were NorthAIDS’ sole source of revenue, Back said.

Myrtle Place had more than 100 active clients, about 90 percent of them gay men. They would be further marginalised if the service closed, Back said.

It is going to increase the isolation suffered by a lot of people with HIV, which in turn will lead to increased mental health issues such as depression.

NorthAIDS appealed to state Health minister John Hatzistergos. But a letter from the minister last week suggested the funding decision would stand.

Shadow state Health minister Jillian Skinner and gay North Sydney councillor Trent Zimmerman urged Hatzistergos to reverse the budget decision.

The decision by the state government to cut NorthAIDS’ funding by almost two thirds is inexplicable and wrong, Skinner said.

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