Canada’s House of Commons Health Committee Calls for Increased Funding for National HIV/AIDS Strategy
The Canadian House of Commons Health Committee yesterday released a report unanimously calling on the government to increase funding for the country's national HIV/AIDS strategy, the Canadian Press reports. The country currently has budgeted $42.2 million in annual funding for the program, but the committee believes that amount is "inadequate," according to committee member Rob Merrifield (Bueckert, Canadian Press, 6/4). The program's funding has been "frozen" at that amount since the strategy's inception 11 years ago; however, the number of HIV-positive people in the country has risen to more than 54,000, from fewer than 30,000 in 1992. During a health committee hearing in March, HIV/AIDS advocates called for funding to be increased to $85 million. A coalition of community groups, scientists and patients focused on the disease's effect on the economy and the need to invest in HIV/AIDS prevention (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18). In the report, the committee called for the government to more than double funding for the national HIV/AIDS strategy to $100 million, the Canadian Press reports (Bueckert, Canadian Press, 6/5). Merrifield added that the committee was unable to reach a consensus on how the funds should be spent. He said that only $3.9 million of the 2002 HIV/AIDS strategy budget went to prevention, compared with $14.3 million when the program was first established. "We're seeing a disproportionate amount going to treatment. Let's see what we can do to prevent more individuals from being infected," Merrifield said, adding, "We're going to be recommending more dollars for this because we have to get serious about attacking [HIV/AIDS]" (Canadian Press, 6/4).
Needle Exchange for Prisoners Proposed
The report also supported a needle-exchange program for injection drug users in federal prisons, the Canadian Press reports. The Canadian Alliance political party in a dissenting report opposed the needle-exchange program proposal, stating, "It would amount to an admission of defeat to the disturbing reality of heightened drug use and abuse among inmates." The party also called for a "somewhat smaller" funding increase to $85 million (Canadian Press, 6/5). The Alliance's report also called for an increased focus on prevention and "measurable targets," such as a 50% reduction in the number of new infections each year within five years, according to the Canadian Press (Canadian Press, 6/4).