WA AIDS Council face funding uncertainty

The WA AIDS Council has raised concerns about future plans of the organisation today, as the Department of Health announce a 12-month extension to their funding agreement.

The Department of Health today revealed their decision to extend WAAC’s current funding agreement for another 12 months. The WA AIDS Council say the organisation has been “left in limbo”, after seeking to secure funding for the next three to five years.

“As the leading HIV organisation in WA and with our proven history of innovative and in-demand services, it’s incredibly disappointing to find ourselves in this position of uncertainty,” WAAC CEO David Kernohan said.

“Whilst we are grateful to receive any funding, now with only 12 months secured this affects our ability to make timely long-term business decisions and future planning, and also steers resources away from other important work whilst we navigate this renegotiation.”

WAAC also highlight that the M Clinic, a sexual health centre for gay, bi, MSM and trans men, will be affected by the decision, with pressure to relocate the service within the next 10 months to meet growing demand.

“We are highly concerned that this decision by the Department will affect important growth needed to meet demand and, most importantly, in reducing numbers of HIV and STIs in the community,” Kernohan continued.

“It’s not only disappointing but also a very frustrating position to find ourselves in when the organisation has recently implemented changes to ensure the sustainability of the organisation, and to now find that future plans we were aiming towards potentially need to be put on hold for the next 12 months.”

“I do want to reassure the community who rely on our services that we will continue to provide the high level of quality support expected of us during this phase and that existing services will not suffer as a result of this decision.”

“With the Commonwealth Government’s recent release of the National HIV Strategy and with WA about to release the State HIV Strategy, it’s difficult to understand why, as the leading HIV organisation in WA, we have not been given the certainty needed to support these strategies.”

A spokesperson for the WA Health department told OUTinPerth that the decision to only provide short term funding was not considered unusual.

“The WA Department of Health has funded the WA AIDS Council since 1985 as a preferred service provider.  A competitive tender process is currently used by the Department of Health to procure community-based services.

“The Department of Health has extended the contract with the WA AIDS Council for 12 months to allow for continuity of services. This length of tender extension is not unusual.

“The Department will continue to work closely with the WA AIDS Council over the next 12 months.  In the interim, the Department will be working to prepare the next tender.”

The department’s spokesperson said they were aware of community concerns about the high turnover of staff at the WA AIDS Council in recent times, as reported by OUTinPerth in March.

The department confirmed that the WA AIDS Council was being funded at the same level as it previously was, with a slight increase for the M-Clinic services. None of the funding that would usually go to the WA AIDS Council has been allocated to any other organisations.

Health Minister Roger Cook was contacted for comment. Update: 25-06-19 Comments from WA Health Department added.