Canada Doesn't Treat All HIV/AIDS Patients Equally: Activists
August 18, 2006
Activists at the 16th International AIDS Conference said Wednesday that access to drugs and treatment is so uneven across Canada that people with HIV/AIDS are sometimes forced to change provinces to get the care they need.
"It is a total myth that people have access and equal access across this country to medications," said Louise Binder, chairperson of the Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC) and an attorney who has been HIV-positive for 14 years. She said each province has its own drug plan and formulary, and the federal government has different plans for aboriginals, retired people, civil servants and the military.
Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network Director Randy Jackson said aboriginals have an HIV-infection rate that is three times that of non-aboriginals. They are tested less often, are diagnosed later, and die sooner, he said, noting that poverty and substandard housing exacerbate their plight.
Refugees and immigrants to Canada often have difficulty accessing care because they cannot speak the language and may not know enough about their health coverage to visit a doctor, said Esther Tharao, co-chairperson of the African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario.
"We do need a national pharmaceutical strategy. It's a matter of life and death for people," Binder said.
Some, however, are wary of change. CTAC Secretary Jean-Pierre Belisle said he and other residents of Quebec are already covered by a good drug plan, and few there would support a national strategy if it meant giving up their provincial coverage.
08.16.06; Chinta Puxley
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