HAPPY PRIDE from all of us

Welcome to the new website of the Queensland AIDS Council. Launching at BRISBANE PRIDE seems the perfect place for us to start our new look digital presence as we re-invigorate our digital footprint. Over time we will grow the resources available on this site and evolve its content with the aim of becoming the go-to health and wellbeing portal for the LGBTI community across Queensland. Apart from the services and resources on offer we have very consciously chosen to also create a space where our community stories can be told, and we can keep all of you up to date on what QuAC is doing and the health promotion campaigns that are most current. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work we do, the following is an overview of the past year and a summary of what QuAC has accomplished.

It’s fair to say that a majority of media attention on LGBTI issues has been focussed this year on marriage equality, and it is somewhat unbelievable that Australia still does not have marriage equality in 2017. Marriage equality is an important issue to QuAC because ultimately it is a health and human rights issue that impacts on thousands of LGBTI Queenslanders. Moving forward, the organisation is deeply concerned about the impact a postal survey, a plebiscite, or any other form of “vote” on our personal lives will make on the community’s mental health.

There has been significant progress in other health areas however. 2016/17 saw the successful implementation of the QPrEPd study, which aimed at providing PrEP to 2000 Queenslanders who were most at risk of HIV transmission. Uptake for the study was significant, and QuAC enlisted 100 people in only 4 weeks by late 2016, with now just over 350 people accessing Clinic 30 for PrEP. Statewide QuAC was pivotal to ensuring Queenslanders became aware of PrEP – something we have been doing for years now through www.comeprepd.info. To date just on 1800 people have been registered for the study.

Clinic 30 has continued to grow throughout the year, with each clinician now at capacity. Providing services to just on 400 people a month, Clinic 30 has established itself as a central part of Brisbane’s HIV and STI testing and treatment, and mental health service delivery. People are attracted to the service because it is a peer based, professional, confidential and LGBTI focussed clinic providing an extensive range of services to LGBTI community members.   

In early 2016, Clinic 30 recognised a number of people were accessing the clinic from Hervey Bay and surrounding areas, with many reporting a lack of services in their region. In response, QuAC worked with the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre, and community members to create an expansion of Clinic 30 within Hervey Bay. The QuAC Hervey Bay Clinic opened its doors in April 2017, and is already well utilised. We know the service we are providing is already reducing the incidence of HIV and STIs within the region.

It has been a particularly challenging year for the 2 Spirits Program. In February 2017, QuAC received notification from the Commonwealth that the funding for the 20 year program would cease by the end of the financial year. Funding was also ceased for the similar project within NTAHC. What followed was a significant advocacy campaign to save the projects, with meetings held in Canberra with Federal MPs. In Senate Estimates on 3rd March, the Department admitted the program was defunded without any evaluation, and without any opportunity for feedback. Ultimately, the Department of Health indicated that “sexual and reproductive health was primarily a state and territory responsibility”, and the funding to date has not been renewed.  Despite the lack of funding, QuAC has agreed to continue the 2 Spirits program for another 12 months.

Healthy Communities Programs have enjoyed a very successful year, with Inclusivity and Consultancy Training being oversubscribed throughout the year, and with demand continuing to build. In total over 1000 people have been trained across a series of professions, thus improving the services from these professionals to LGBTI people.

The Seniors Community Visitors Scheme, now in its 5th year, undertook 292 client visits of LGBTI people who otherwise would be socially isolated. The project, supported by a team of volunteer visitors highlights the importance of our work with volunteers to meet people in our community that otherwise would not be accessed.

This year saw the employment of a Trans Health Worker, following the growing demand for trans and gender diverse services across the sector. Whilst not a funded position, QuAC recognises the need for trans services and service delivery and made a commitment to create this position and build our services into the trans community. 2016 saw the first Transgender World AIDS Day event, and the inaugural Trans Community Awards, recognising services to the trans community across Queensland.   

Our outreach to communities around health promotion has continued throughout the year, with outreach now happening across Brisbane, Cairns, Toowoomba, and now Hervey Bay. A team of volunteers now promotes our sexual health messaging on a weekly basis, and is easily able to adapt to the changing community. In addition to a presence in pubs and clubs, we continue to conduct health promotion messaging through social media, online media, and phone apps where our communities meet. Our online PrEP campaign www.comeprepd.info remains a significant source of information for people accessing PrEP, and our new online campaign #ready4sex will continue to provide health promotion messaging to our community.

QuAC remained central to the needs, rights and advocacy for LGBTI health throughout 2016/17, and will no doubt continue to do so throughout the next year. With challenges around marriage equality, with PrEP still not available on the PBS and with ongoing discrimination against LGBTI people, there is still a lot of work to be done through the coming year. I want to thank our staff and volunteers for their hard work and commitment to LGBTI health throughout the year and highlight the impact all are making to a safer, more inclusive Queensland for LGBTI people throughout 2018.   

Michael Scott, Executive Director

Queensland AIDS Council