Daniel Hurst brisbanetimes.com.au state political reporter
"Farmer Dave" Graham, who came out as gay on Big Brother in 2006, is one of nine people appointed to a new committee to spearhead HIV/AIDS prevention in Queensland.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg today revealed the membership of a new ministerial committee to manage $2.6 million in Queensland Health funding previously allocated to the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender health organisation.
The new committee will be chaired by the director of the Cairns Sexual Health Service, Darren Russell.
Mr Springborg's statement said Dr Russell had worked in the field of HIV medicine since 1990 and was the national president of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations from 2003 to 2006.
Also included on the list of members is Dave Graham, who made headlines when he revealed his sexuality on the Big Brother reality television show in 2006.
When he appeared on ABC TV's Australian Story in 2010, Mr Graham spoke of how he had future political ambitions and how "some of the dinosaurs of the party" blocked him when he put his name forward to become secretary of the Young Nationals.
Mr Springborg's statement said Mr Graham had a background in media and small business and had been an advocate for rural and remote gay and lesbian health.
The advisory committee also includes Brisbane-based sex worker advocate Candi Forrest and a range of sexual health experts.
The announcement QAHC was being stripped of its funding triggered a protest that saw 2000 people rally in Brisbane CBD in May to question the government's motivations.
QAHC reacted angrily to the sudden funding cut, saying the organisation would have to cut 26 of its 35 staff and its prevention efforts focused towards gay men would stop.
But Mr Springborg said the new ministerial committee "had an important responsibility to reverse a steep increase in Queensland HIV/AIDS infection rates".
He called on the committee to "make good use of renewed community awareness about HIV/AIDS to spread the message about safe sexual practices and other effective anti-HIV strategies".
Dr Russell said the committee would have to hit the ground running and he expected decisions about budget allocations would be difficult.
"There may be a place for a more general [awareness] campaign but we really need targeted campaigns as well," he told brisbanetimes.com.au.
Dr Russell said he had previously met and worked with many of the HIV/AIDS experts on the new committee.
"A couple of them I haven't met but I think of the eight other people on there I've met six before and I worked with them a fair bit," he said.
Dr Russell said he was heartened that Mr Springborg was keen to reduce HIV transmission but some initiatives that had been done in the past would have to continue.
"We'll have to keep doing some of the things that have always been done and some new things," Dr Russell said.
Dr Russell said HIV campaigns targeted at gay men and promoting condom use had "generally been done quite well". He also saw a need to keep needle and syringe programs going and continue to work with sex workers.
Dr Russell said he was keen to look at quicker testing methods, as some people infected with HIV were being missed as testing was not convenient or easy.
"What we really need to aim to do is focus on people who don't yet know they've got HIV infections," he said.
Dr Russell said he was yet to speak to QAHC but it would be a matter for the committee as to how to make use of experts who had been at QAHC.
"There are certainly people within QAHC who have been experts within Queensland and we'll have to see if there's some way we can make use of people," he said.
The committee is due to meet for the first time within a fortnight.
Full list of members:
•Chair: Dr Darren Russell - Director Sexual Health Service, Cairns
•Simon O'Connor - HIV/AIDS service provider, Brisbane
•Candi Forrest - sex worker advocate, Brisbane
•Penny Kenchington - sexual health nurse practitioner, Townsville.
•Professor Jeffrey Gow - social researcher, public health, Toowoomba.
•Dr Andrew Redmond - HIV/AIDS physician, Brisbane.
•Wendell Rosevear OAM - HIV/AIDS physician, Brisbane.
•David Graham - Small businessman, rural advocate, Goondiwindi.
•Elisha McGuiness – indigenous sexual health promotion officer, Townsville
Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/farmer-dave-named-on-new-hiv-panel-20120706-21lu4.html#ixzz1zx2i4SxS