ACT UPActivists from New ACT UP, the Australian chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), are calling on the NSW Ministry of Health to investigate and review ACON.

Activists from New ACT UP, the Australian chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), are calling on the NSW Ministry of Health to investigate and review ACON.

In a petition posted on Change.org, New ACT UP urged NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to task an independent panel to oversee ACON, formerly known as the AIDS Council of NSW, which receives more than $10 million in State Government funds per year.

“We believe the organisation has become self-serving, incompetent, corrupt and unaccountable to those they are funded to serve,” says the petition.

“We submit that ACON fails to serve the NSW HIV-positive community and fails in its charter to educate on the consequences of unsafe sex and the realities of living with HIV.”

The petition, which has been signed by 165 people so far, follows revelations in June of a big jump in HIV in NSW.

409 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in NSW in 2012 – an increase of 24 % on the previous year, which ACON CEO Nick Parkhill has attributed to an increase in HIV testing rates for that period.

But the UNSW Centre for Social Research in Health has confirmed that there was no data to support that claim, and the available data showed testing rates remained the same. New ACT UP suggested ACON was being misleading because their lack of effective HIV campaigns had in part contributed to the rise.

“In education on the dangers of drink driving, speeding, binge drinking, smoking tobacco, heart disease and lung cancer, the campaigns are very graphic and explicit in the information they provide about consequences. The HIV campaigns are not,” said the petition, which includes 12 key points and recommendations.

“The Sydney gay community has a right to honest explicit, accurate information in order to be able to make informed choices. Gay men need to know WHY they should use a condom.”

The State Governments of Queensland and South Australia recently defunded the equivalent organisations in those states and The South Australian equivalent, the AIDS Council of South Australia (ACSA), has now shut down.

But New ACT UP spokesperson Shayne Chester said he didn’t necessarily want to see the same to happen in NSW.

“We’d like to see appropriate HIV education, services restored to the HIV+ and we’d like to see community funding spent on community,” said Mr Chester, “we’re not about destroying but deconstructing and rebuilding.”

New ACT UP is aiming to collect 500 signatures by the end of the month. According to NSW legislation, petitions with 500 or more signatures trigger a parliamentary response from the relevant minister.

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