Responding to questions from the Star Observer, Williams called the reports “speculation”.
“His resignation was, as has been stated to VAC staff and stakeholders, for his personal reasons,” Williams said.
“There have been a number of community media reports on this matter since, and some speculation on these issues. However, we respect his decision and therefore have no further comment to make on these claims.”
Williams denied reports received by the Star Observer staff had planned a walkout en masse due to dissatisfaction with Dixon’s leadership of VAC/GMHC. Media reports have indicated staff morale at VAC/GMHC have been low following a restructuring of the organisation last year.
Williams also denied claims he had been against the appointment of acting CEO Colin Batrouney. “I approached Colin to be acting CEO when Matt resigned. I have enormous respect for the work he has done at VAC/GMHC over a long period of time,” Williams said.
Media reports have suggested widespread community concern over whether VAC expenditure on public health campaigns for HIV prevention such as the acclaimed web series Being Brendo have helped decrease HIV transmission.
A recent report by the Kirby Institute showed HIV diagnoses in Australia are on the rise, with 2012 showing a spike of ten per cent, the biggest jump in two decades.
Although Williams acknowledged the difficulties of assessing the success of public health campaigns run by AIDS Councils, he denied HIV prevention campaigns weren’t working.
“I don’t believe that the prevention message has failed at all,” he said.
“It is true that last year saw an increase of 10 percent in the national figures for HIV but it is interesting to note that in Victoria, we bucked that trend by posting a 6.5 percent decrease in notifications, that decreasing trend has been sustained in Victoria in the year-to-date figures.”
Mr Williams comments were backed up by Victorian Health Minister David Davis through his spokesperson who said “the department has a strong working relationship with the Victorian AIDS Council and looks forward to maintaining and building on this partnership in the lead up to the International AIDS Conference in 2014, and ongoing.
“In Victoria one of our strategies has been to encourage people to test early and frequently so that their HIV status is known. A good example of this strategy being put into action is the establishment of the PRONTO rapid HIV testing site in Fitzroy, which is a partnership between the government, the Burnet Institute and VAC.”