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Canada: Gains Slip Away in AIDS Work

December 10, 2008

In 2008-09, Canada will spend $84 million (US $66.8 million) domestically on HIV/AIDS, the most in the nation's history. But some of that money is being redirected from community-based efforts toward the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. This approach, said Jirina Vlk, spokesperson from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), "balances current prevention needs and a longer term investment necessary to find an effective vaccine."

"The reduction in HIV/AIDS grants and contributions is the result of two separate processes: the government-wide expenditure review process and a realignment of federal government investments in HIV/AIDS," explained Mauricette Howlett, PHAC regional director for Ontario.

However, HIV/AIDS groups worry a move away from harm-reduction strategies at the federal level will negatively impact Ottawa's epidemic. As many as 3,000 people in the city are infected, and up to a third of these do not know it. "It's a scary time," said Kathleen Cummings, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) estimates that six HIV infections are prevented annually by harm-reduction programs, though the number may be as high as 24.

"Ottawa has one of the highest rates of HIV among injection drug users, and since we've really put a focus on harm-reduction efforts, that number has come down. We have seen an effect of harm-reduction programs on the rates of HIV," said Roger Prasad, a sexual health supervisor at OPH.

According to the agency, 78 new infections were reported to OPH by the end of September, compared to 73 cases for all of 2005.

Back to other news for December 2008

Excerpted from:
Ottawa Citizen
12.01.2008; Dale Smith




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