Pass the Minister some spectacles, his short – sightedness is showing

I have an admission to make… I’m short sighted.  No, really I am. I own glasses and everything.  And each year my sight deteriorates a little more with age.  Regardless of this my worsening vision is nothing compared to the disgraceful short sightedness that the South Australian State Government is currently demonstrating.  Recently announced cuts to alcohol and other drugs treatment alongside the total eradication of the South Australian AIDS Council, taking along with it SAVIVE, the peak user organisation in the state can only result in both short term and long term pain.

The South Australian AIDS Council and SAVIVE the drug user organisation that it supports, are the frontline in preventing the spread of blood borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections in South Australia.  This is a state that can ill afford to lose any advantage in regards to preventative measures addressing HIV/AIDS.

Consider the following:

  • Over the period 1985-2008, 1155 HIV infections were detected in South Australia and over 300 of these people have died from AIDS or HIV-related illnesses.(1)
  • There were 67 new diagnosis of HIV in South Australia reported in 2011, constituting an increase of over 60% of new diagnosis in comparison to the previous year. (2)

The programs operated by the South Australian Aids Council and SAVIVE include the provision of information to groups within the community deemed at high risk, (including injecting drug users and sex workers) addressing how people can prevent the transmission of HIV.  Additionally SAVIVE operates a central needle syringe program, an essential operation, well evidenced to prevent HIV transmission.  Proposed mainstreaming of such services essentially places these responsibilities into the hands of the very organisations that many in our communities feel marginalised from.  The South Australian Government’s understanding of how inadequate mainstream health services often are at engaging with groups within our community who are all too often marginalised, stigmatised and discriminated against is sadly lacking.

The South Australian Government’s documented reasoning for funding cuts across health appears to be financially motivated as they seek to cut spending across the board. This is coupled with the fact that the AIDS council was already facing financial woes, making it a vulnerable target.  However even a cursory examination of the financial benefits of activities designed to prevent HIV transmission demonstrates that a far more fiscally responsible action would be to enhance South Australia’s capacity to address HIV transmission, rather than essentially eradicate any Government funded response.

According to a large scale economic evaluation of needle and syringe programs in Australia, the cost savings attributable to the financial investment in needle syringe programs found:

“For every one dollar invested in NSPs, more than four dollars were returned (additional to the investment) in healthcare cost-savings in the short-term (ten years) if only direct costs are included; greater returns are expected over longer time horizons.”

(National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research 2009(3))

The same evaluation found that the inclusion of productivity savings and other indirect cost savings extended the overall cost savings to $27 for every dollar invested.  It is incredibly expensive to treat HIV, and incredibly cheap to prevent.

The South Australian Government’s actions will only reap the opposite of their stated goal to reduce costs, but more importantly this ill wrought decision will directly impact upon the health and well-being of all South Australians.

Sign a petition requesting that the South Australian government reconsider the defunding of the AIDS council here.

References

(1)    National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, ‘Final report: Evaluation of HIV in South Australia 2010.’ University of New South Wales, Sydney New South Wales

(2)    The Kirby Institute. ‘HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report 2012.’ The Kirby Institute, the University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW

(3)    National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (2009) ‘Return on investment 2: Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of needle and syringe programs in Australia’, University of New  South Wales, Sydney

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