Canadian HIV/AIDS Groups Lobby Government To Reinstate Funding, Halt Further Reductions
Some community groups in Canada are calling on the government to reinstate funding for HIV/AIDS services and to stop further reductions, the CP/Google.com reports. The government recently announced that about $26 million will be redirected from HIV/AIDS initiatives to vaccine development efforts, the CP/Google.com reports.
According to the CP/Google.com, HIV/AIDS groups have said that they do not know when the cuts will be implemented or how they will be affected. Rick Kennedy, executive director of the Ontario AIDS Network, said the reductions are moving across Canada as different programs come up for renewal. He added that funding in Ontario was reduced by 30% in 2007 and that HIV/AIDS groups in Quebec could lose up to 24% this year. Kennedy acknowledged the need for a vaccine but said funding allocated for that goal should not be included in the government's overall HIV/AIDS spending target of $84.4 million. Funding for Alberta has been extended for six months, and groups have been notified that some type of funding reduction will follow when the extension ends.
Susan Cress, chair of the Alberta Community Council on HIV, said, "At this point in time, one would think somebody would be able to draw a line in the sand to say, 'This is what it's going to look like.'" She added, "We don't have it." Some advocates said that they fear the funding reductions will increase HIV/AIDS rates among vulnerable groups -- including injection drug users, prisoners and men who have sex with men -- the CP/Google.com reports. "We're concerned about having to lay off staff, having to discontinue programs and having our ability to fight HIV through prevention and education substantially reduced," Kennedy said.
The office of Health Minister Tony Clement said that Clement is traveling and referred inquiries to the Public Health Agency of Canada. No one from the agency was available for an interview, according to the CP/Google.com. Jacinthe Perras, spokesperson for the agency, in an e-mail wrote that the majority of the $26 million redirected to the vaccine initiative will not come from "the community funding envelope." She added, "Great effort has been taken to minimize the impact of the redirection of funding on community programs." Clement in a March letter to Kennedy said that he understands the concerns that have resulted from the funding reductions and that the government is "taking action to mitigate the negative impact of these reductions."
The Ontario AIDS Network, the Alberta council and a similar group in Quebec are lobbying the government to reinstate the funding. The groups have also created a postcard mail-in campaign with the slogan "Cutting Funding," the CP/Google.com reports (CP/Google.com, 5/18).