Election 2015: Funding the federal HIV/AIDS strategy — Canada’s major federal parties respond

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts being published daily by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network ahead of Election Day on October 19, 2015.

Recently, we sent a questionnaire to the five major federal parties, asking their position on key questions related to HIV and human rights. Four out of five parties responded. Their responses are shared here, along with our comments. See www.aidslaw.ca/election2015 for more information.

October 8, 2015

Canada needs an adequately funded federal strategy on HIV and AIDS, including funding for front-line services and programs that offer HIV prevention and provide care, treatment and support to people living with HIV and their families and communities. Despite unanimous agreement in 2003 by all parties represented in Parliament to double funding for Canada’s federal strategy, the government froze funding in 2007 below the agreed-upon level – which has meant that more than $100 million of funds committed to the HIV response have never been delivered in the years since. Meanwhile, there are over 3000 cases of HIV infection newly diagnosed each year.

Decades of research and experience have demonstrated what works in responding to HIV. This includes scaling up access to antiretroviral treatment and evidence-based prevention programs, and protecting and promoting the human rights of people living with HIV and of communities particularly affected, so that these programs and services are accessible and effective. Other countries have adopted new strategies and committed funds to the global goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. Yet Canada’s HIV strategy is now a decade old, is not informed by the most recent scientific breakthroughs, and has never been adequately funded.

We asked major parties in Canada whether they would collaborate with leading Canadian HIV organizations to envision a new, up-to-date, fully funded strategy to end HIV and AIDS in Canada and globally.

The Liberal Party, NDP and Green Party all committed to working with HIV and AIDS organizations to develop an updated federal strategy:

  • The Liberal Party said that it is “committed to implementing a health plan that is formed in consultation with experts and civil society and includes rigorous examination of supporting facts and evidence.” adding that it would recognize contributions of organizations such as the Legal Network. The party added that: “Liberals believe that Canada has both a domestic and an international responsibility to forcefully combat HIV and AIDS. More needs to be done to prevent new infections in Canada and around the world, slow the progression of the disease, safeguard human rights, and improve the quality of life of Canadians living with HIV and AIDS.” 
  • The New Democratic Party said it was “scandalized” by the government funding cuts in 2007 and that crucial funding for community-based programs had still not reach the originally targeted amount.  It added: “It is time to reset our programing and funding strategy for HIV/AIDS at home and abroad. A New Democratic government will work collaboratively with HIV and AIDS organizations on this important initiative.” 
  • The Green Party stated that it is “fully committed to working with HIV organizations to develop an updated and federally funded strategy” and noted that its party leader called for a national HIV/AIDS strategy in Parliament. It also noted that thousands of Canadians continue to be diagnosed with HIV every year, and specifically expressed concern that Aboriginal people are 3.5 times as likely to contract HIV as the rest of the population. The party included in its response a list of key areas for action, including, among others: reducing the stigma associated with HIV; dedicating greater resources to offering antiretroviral therapies to HIV-positive drug users; and dedicating greater resources to harm reduction, prevention, and education efforts. 
  • The Bloc Québécois only addressed the issue of funding (and not the need for a new federal strategy), taking the view that the federal government deprives the provinces of adequate funding: “[T]he Bloc Québécois believes that only a complete correction of Canada’s fiscal imbalance, an imbalance that continues to deprive Québec and the provinces of the revenues needed to fulfil their responsibilities in the realm of health and social services, will enable Québec and the provinces to further develop services to the public in their areas of exclusive jurisdiction, and to ensure that their residents receive adequate and timely care.”

The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to the questionnaire.

For more information:

  • The National Partners’ blog post on the need for a coordinated national strategy, published in The Huffington Post