April 1, 2010
After years of financial backing, Canada's International Development Agency has stopped contributing money to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, one of the world's largest AIDS vaccine development agencies. Between 2001 and 2008, CIDA provided the initiative nearly $80 million (US $79 million). Not only was the agency one of IAVI's major donors, but IAVI also used that funding to leverage other support, said Dr. Seth Berkley, the initiative's president.
In 2009, Canada contributed nothing to IAVI, and nothing was proposed for IAVI in this year's federal budget.
"IAVI was informed in July 2009 that CIDA funding priorities are under review, and that no further commitments could be made at that time," an IAVI spokesperson recently told the Winnipeg Free Press.
The development agency is reviewing all of its programs to determine aid effectiveness, said Jessica Fletcher, a spokesperson for International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda. "No decision has been made yet on the future of this program," she said.
"CIDA's ongoing support is critical in sustaining the momentum in the search for an AIDS vaccine," Berkley wrote in letters sent Jan. 25 to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Oda and Industry Minister Tony Clement. To date, Berkley has received no response.
"This government is now abandoning one of the greatest vaccine initiatives in the world," said Stephen Lewis, co-director of the US-based AIDS Free World and former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. "I just think it's unconscionable."
The Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, a joint venture between the government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recently announced it was scrapping plans to build an $88 million (US $87 million) vaccine production facility in Canada. Lewis called for that money to be used to reinstate funding for IAVI.