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Hard-pressed AIDS Foundation owes $500,000

Fri 11 Nov 2016 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

The NZ AIDS Foundation has had to borrow $500,000 to help fund the services it provides, and without an increase in Ministry of Health funding it is facing unspecified operational cuts to stem the flow of red ink. Figures in the NZAF's just-released 2016 financial report show the country's primary HIV prevention organisation already owes a total of half a million dollars as it tries to keep its services going in the face of frozen annual funding provided by the Ministry of Health. It is likely that for the current financial year the Foundation will also run at a deficit, adding to the accumulating debt. Repeated requests over recent years for the Ministry, the Foundation's primary funder to the tune of just over $4million annually, to increase the funding at least by the rate of inflation are understood to have been unsuccessful. The financial blow-out comes as the Foundation's prevention activities, by far the largest part of its work, have been trying to counter a three-year continuing surge in the number of new infections. More gay and bisexual men are now being diagnosed with HIV each year than at any time in the epidemic's thirty-year history. The Foundation is also having to make crucial prevention programme decisions based on increasingly out of date data with the Ministry declining to fund next year's hoped-for GAPSS and GOSS attitudinal research, public health studies not funded by the Ministry since 2014. Countries with similar epidemics to New Zealand conduct equivalent research yearly to guide decision-making and monitor results. At the Foundation's AGM on Saturday it was stated that the board is determined to run without a deficit as soon as possible. Asked where future economies would likely be made if the NZAF cannot secure increased public health funding both the Chair, David Friar, and Executive Director, Jason Myers, declined to give specifics, noting that the Foundation is currently developing its next multi-year strategic plan which will be put to the Ministry in the coming months, underpinning the next round of funding requests. Both the current Executive Director and his predecessor have questioned whether the Government is sufficiently committed to public health funding for HIV prevention and education work. The NZAF has been able to loan the money to cover the deficits because of an overdraft facility linked to its ownership of the building housing its national office.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 11th November 2016 - 1:05am

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