Transforming HIV

Last week, the Minister for Health, Hon Jack Snelling, announced the winners of three HIV non-government tenders.  The new contracts will all commence on 1 July 2015. One winner is Scarlet Alliance and the Sex Industry Network who will be able to continue their highly successful peer-education model of HIV prevention with sex workers in South Australia.

Community based, peer driven organisations in Australia have been the driving force behind Australia’s success in reducing HIV transmissions and are acknowledged as the best-practice model globally.  Despite this, Positive Life SA (PLSA), the only HIV community-based organisation in SA, lost all its government funding through this tendering process.

Other successful tenderers were SHineSA (ex-Family Planning SA) in partnership with the Victorian AIDS Council, and Centacare Catholic Family Services.

PLSA President Mr Geoff Hood said, “Positive Life SA is devastated at this turn of events, made even more untenable with the Victorian AIDS Council joining in partnership with ShineSA. Together they have been given $800k of South Australia’s funding for HIV-positive people.”

PLSA has had an impeccable record of financial accountability, community connection and effective service delivery for the past 20 years. Our success and expertise in providing services, advocacy and support to the gay and HIV-positive communities has been dishonoured by the choice of Centacare, ShineSA and the Victorian AIDS Council to now undertake these roles.

PLSA’s Executive Officer Mr Rob O’Brien stated, “Positive Life SA is a vibrant, successful, innovative, community-driven organisation which provides high quality services to HIV-positive people in SA.  Last financial year we provided over 6,000 episodes of service and 25 education, peer support and professional development events – all with just 5 part-time staff and a budget of less than $400,000.”

As a consequence of PLSA’s defunding, South Australia will earn the dubious distinction of being the first state or territory in Australia without a community driven response to HIV. This marks a dark page in the history of HIV-positive people in South Australia.

In 2014, Minister Snelling endorsed the 7th National HIV Strategy (which highlights the need to maintain community-based organisations within the HIV response) along with all other state and territory health ministers.  Now in 2015, Minister Snelling has performed an epic backflip on this commitment by defunding Positive Life SA.

Mr O’Brien said, “The Health Minister’s decision to award funding to the Victorian AIDS Council is one that defies belief.  However, it’s his health bureaucrats who recommended this very un-South Australian option for his approval.”   

Positive Life SA’s government funded services will cease on 30 June. The future of its other services and supports are also under threat unless alternative, ongoing finances can be secured.

PLSA is staging a CrowdFunding project to gain financial independence and continue to provide valued services and peer support to the HIV-positive and gay communities in South Australia (aka Western Victoria).

This project will be launched at a rally tomorrow (15 May) at 12.30pm on the steps of Parliament House.  Condoms will be worn to symbolise community protection against highly questionable government processes.

For further information and comment contact:
Geoff Hood – President
Rob O’Brien – Executive Officer