The Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC) and the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) have joined forces to launch a petition calling on the Federal government to reverse funding cuts to two Indigenous sexual health programs.
The Federal Government has told the organisations that both QuAC’s 2Spirits Program and NTAHC’s Aboriginal Sexual Health Program won’t be funded beyond June 30.
Both organisations say the programs address disproportionate rates of HIV and STIs among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The Kirby Institute said in its most recent Annual Surveillance Report that in 2015 HIV notifications among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were more than double the rate in non‑Indigenous populations and had steadily increased in the past five years.
Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis were also between three to 18 times higher among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community than the non-Indigenous population, according to the data.
Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council director Kim Gates said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTIQ communities “have unique healthcare needs that relate to addressing their sexuality and gender identity concerns.”
“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,” Gates said.
Queensland AIDS Council director Michael Scott said: “Without the 2 Spirits Program many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and Sistergirls will have nowhere to go. The risks to their mental and sexual health are significant and the outcome will be devastating.”
Both programs have been active for over 21 years, and the organisations say they’re the only community programs in the NT and QLD delivering specific and culturally-safe sexual health promotion and education directly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI people, including Sistergirls and Brotherboys.
A federal health department spokesperson said in a statement earlier this month that sexual and reproductive health is “primarily a state and territory responsibility.”
“The AIDS Council has been aware that since 2015 they would only get funding up to 30 June 2017, and was advised to make alternative arrangements,” the spokesperson said.
You can sign the petition on Change.org here.