The Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC) and the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) have launched a joint campaign to reverse federal funding cuts to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health programs.
The government has announced it will stop funding from June 30 to both QuAC 2 Spirits and the NTAHC Aboriginal Sexual Health program.
Each program represents a longstanding effort to address the disproportionate STI rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland and the NT. The impending cuts are set to draw the programs to an indefinite close.
Funding has been used by NTAHC employee teams based in Darwin and Alice Springs, and QuAC employees from Brisbane and Cairns. All have been working in regional and remote areas to assist groups that often have difficulty accessing mainstream health services.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have STI rates up to 20 times higher than others, and make up 60 per cent of people living with chronic hepatitis B in the NT.
“Without the 2 Spirits program, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls will have nowhere to go,” said Michael Scott, executive director of QuAC.
“The risks to their mental and sexual health are significant and the outcome will be devastating.”
Executive director of NTAHC Kim Gates said, “The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ communities have unique healthcare needs that relate to addressing their sexuality and gender identity concerns, and they face significant levels of stigma, discrimination and social exclusion.
“The impact these funding cuts will potentially have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ community members, particularly sistergirls and brotherboys, has not been considered.”
QuAC and NTAHC have started a petition to reverse the cuts so that that the 2 Spirits and Aboriginal Sexual Health programs can continue after June 30.
They are also running a social media campaign using #LGBTIBlackLivesMatter.