Australia Allocates $8M for National HIV Prevention, Education Program
The Australian government on Tuesday announced that it has included 9.8 million Australian dollars, or about $8 million, in the federal budget for the development of a national HIV prevention and education campaign, Melbourne's Age reports (Nader, Age, 5/9). A ministerial task force -- led by Michael Wooldridge, chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on AIDS, Sexual Health and Hepatitis and former health minister -- recommended the campaign in January in response to a 41% increase in the number of new HIV cases in the country recorded from 2000 to 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). The campaign will target at-risk populations, including young people and men who have sex with men. The plan provides funding during the next four years to develop a new media campaign, as well as create resources for doctors, sexual health workers and schools, according to the Age (Age, 5/9).
Some HIV/AIDS advocates have said funding for the campaign is inadequate, the Australian reports. The program provides "less than $2.5 million a year spread across the Australian continent," Australian AIDS Fund President Brian Haill said, adding, "I would have to say that the sum is truly insignificant. They would have even been better to say we're really not getting anywhere with the AIDS prevention program." Haill said the government should rethink its HIV prevention strategy. "There would be more value for money if the government had opted to introduce a national sexual education program for all schools," he said. Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations spokesperson Don Baxter said, "We've been encouraging the government to do a campaign like this, so we were very pleased to see the funding for it in the budget." He added that it is "not a lot for a national media campaign, but we think there's a possibility of targeting it to television shows with higher audiences of gay men" (Hart, Australian, 5/10). Health Minister Tony Abbott said the campaign would not use scare tactics like Australia's "Grim Reaper" HIV campaign, which was implemented in the 1980s. Baxter said such a campaign would be rejected by viewers (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31).