Canada: Committee to Recommend Increased Funding for AIDS
June 5, 2003
In a report to be released today, Canada's House of Commons health committee will unanimously call on Ottawa to increase funding for the federal HIV/AIDS strategy. All parties have agreed that the $42.2 million (US$31.4 million) in annual funding for the strategy is inadequate, said Rob Merrifield, Canadian Alliance health critic and a committee member.Adapted from:
The committee was not able to reach a consensus on how the money should be spent, Merrifield said. The Canadian Alliance, in a minority report, will call for increased emphasis on prevention. Merrifield said his party sees much merit in the ABC awareness program (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condom use). But that approach is highly controversial, since it is associated with traditional sexual ethics that many consider obsolete.
During three days of hearings in March, testimony before the committee was dominated by concerns about treatment, research and stigmatization of people with AIDS. Funding for the HIV/AIDS strategy has not increased since it was created 10 years ago. Merrifield said only $3.9 million (US$2.9 million) of the budget went for prevention last year; in contrast, when the strategy was first announced, $14.3 million (US$16.9 million) went for prevention. "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.
The Alliance will call for measurable targets in the strategy, proposing as a goal a 50 percent reduction in annual new infections within five years. The committee was told that about 4,000 new HIV infections are reported annually in Canada, about the same as in the mid-1990s, but the nature of the epidemic has changed. After first affecting mainly homosexuals, AIDS has become more prevalent among heterosexuals. Rates among intravenous drug users are extremely high, reaching 40 percent in Vancouver's Lower East Side.
Standard (St. Catharines, Ontario)
06.05.03; Canadian Press
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.