Sector uncertainty

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02 Jun 2015

Almost $1 billion is to be cut from health programs as part of savings revealed in last month’s Budget — more than half of which will come from the Health Flexible Funds allocation. One of these funds — the Communicable Disease and Service Improvement Grants Fund — provides the bulk of health promotion funding for the HIV sector.

Flexible fund grants are made to national peak bodies such as the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO). Both bodies have a 12-month extension to expire in June 2016, with no certainty after that. “The lack of certainty distracts organisations such as ours from our long-term work,” said NAPWHA executive director Aaron Cogle. “It also diminishes our focus on meeting the targets of the National Strategy.”

Dr Brian Owler of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said it is crucial that organisations such as NAPWHA and AFAO are able to plan for the future. “We need to see certainty around where the cuts will be made, how they are going to be applied,” he said.

Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King said the cuts will have a profound effect on the people reliant on NGOs. “It will have a direct impact,” she said. “These [grants] fund the important organisations that the HIV/AIDS community has been working with for many decades. We will literally see those groups defunded."