What happened to HIV funding in Canada?
In 2003 – almost 20 years ago – the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health recommended $100 million per year be allocated to support the HIV response in Canada. While funding did increase, it fell short of these recommendations. The government promised to spend $84.4 million annually as of 2008, but in reality, this figure has been frozen at about $72.6 million.
This means over $123 million promised for HIV response was never delivered. This lack of funding has had crippling effects on the services and community organizations trying to respond to and prevent HIV.
In 2019, the Standing Committee on Health once again recommended $100 million per year to fund the HIV response in Canada. But, we’re still waiting. You can help by writing a letter to the Minister of Health and your local MP.
What impact does underfunding have on Canada’s HIV response?
Since funding for HIV was frozen in 2008, the number of people living with HIV in Canada has increased by 25%. This means that demand for services has increased while available resources have decreased. Community-based organizations must do more with less.
Despite new and better tools to prevent HIV, like PrEP, HIV cases are rising in Canada. For people living with or at risk of HIV, programs and services are getting scaled back. Without adequate funding, community-based organizations that test, treat, prevent, and respond to HIV can’t provide the support that’s needed.
How has COVID-19 impacted HIV supports and services?
COVID-19 has increased pressure on HIV service organizations to address HIV. Many community-based organizations that rely on charitable donations experienced disruptions to their income. To respond to COVID-19, many organizations also had to expand their scope and support people in new ways.
These pressures came at a time when HIV services were already spread thin responding to the overdose crisis and rises in other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
Meanwhile, early trends in some parts of the country show increases in HIV infection and decreases in HIV testing. In British Columbia and Quebec, HIV infections increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ontario, HIV testing rates have fallen. Because of these trends, community-based organizations may face even greater pressure going forward.
Why is this the federal government’s problem?
It’s the federal government’s responsibility to help prevent infections, promote health and to respond to public health threats. Beyond that, the Government of Canada has made global commitments to reduce HIV transmission – including to the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Canada is not achieving these targets and is not on track to meet its 2030 commitments.
It’s time to shift from promises and platitudes to action and funding.
Help us spread the word by sharing information through your social media channels, websites, and newsletters. We have created a number of promotional resources to help raise awareness, which you can access here.