John MikelsonsThe board of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) announced last week that the organisation plans to return to its original name, the Queensland AIDS Council, in a move the organisation hopes will refocus its aim and prepare itself for the future.

The Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) was founded at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Australia in 1984 and put itself at the forefront of the fight to control the epidemic in Queensland. The organisation changed its name to QAHC in 2006 in a bid to broaden its outreach and engage with all sectors of the LGBTI community, with combating HIV/AIDS still being its prime directive.

Following a unanimous board decision last week, QAHC decided upon the name change in an effort to align the organisation with fellow AIDS councils across the country, creating a sense of consistency nationally.

“This proposed change, made in our thirtieth anniversary year, recognises the trailblazing efforts made by our community to respond to the epidemic in those early days,” QAHC President Joanne Leamy said in a statement.

“It also demonstrates that while we respect the past we remain focused on the future.

“The HIV epidemic in Queensland is changing, so how we talk about ourselves is critical to ensuring we remain focused on this health issue and that everyone understands who we are and what we do.”

The news of the name change has not been universally welcomed in the community, with many saying over social media that the specific reference to AIDS in the name diverts attention away from the dozens of other vital services that QAHC has started offering since 2006.

Many members of the LGBTI community believe that the name change doesn’t reflect the organisation that QAHC has become, with others stating that the return to the AIDS council makes them “uncomfortable,” “apprehensive” and not inclusive of the whole community.

Newly appointed Executive Director of QAHC John Mikelsons (pictured) said the name change has to do with making sure the organisation retains a strong relevance to the community.

“AIDS Councils around the country have a fantastic brand and a great reputation for promoting the health of LGBTI people, and we want to make use of that.” Mikelsons told the Star Observer.

“Irrespective of our name, our organisation will be firmly focussed on LGBTI health issues, and the health of our community. We have plenty on our plate talking about HIV and gay mens sexual health, LGBTI mental health, LGBTI ageing, trans* health, lesbian health and a range of other issues that affect the health of our community.”

Some have questioned whether the name change is an effort by the board to distance itself from one of the accusations that the Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg made – that QAHC had become “too political” – when stating why he chose to defund the organisation last year.

“Fabulous organisations like Australian Marriage Equality can and should continue the fight on marriage equality, and we endorse their efforts. We will of course continue to be pro-marriage equality, and pro-law reform, even if we aren’t actively involved in that space,” Mikelsons said

The name change will be voted upon by QAHC members at the upcoming AGM on November 19.

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