CANADA AND THE HIV RESPONSE:
TOP ISSUES FOR WORLD AIDS DAY 2020
Human rights, federal funding, opioid overdose crisis top priorities this year
November 27, 2020 — Tuesday, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. Given our current context, the dangers of underfunding the response to public health crises are all too evident. Every day, the COVID-19 pandemic and drug poisoning crisis highlight yet again the need for robust and ongoing public health responses.
Equally critical is the need to effectively fund such responses and ground them in a firm, unwavering commitment to human rights by attending to the stigma, criminalization, and structural inequalities that fuel such crises — lessons that the HIV pandemic has taught us for decades.
Canada and all other UN member states have signed on to the international Sustainable Development Goal of “ending AIDS by 2030,” as well as interim targets for preventing new infections, increasing access to HIV testing, and connecting people to effective HIV treatment. To achieve these, it is crucial to centre our response on human rights, particularly for those who are marginalized and subject to stigma, discrimination, and other infringements on human rights. Only then will the tide be turned on the HIV pandemic and other public health crises.
As World AIDS Day approaches, the HIV Legal Network calls on the Government of Canada to adequately fund the federal HIV response at a level of at least $100 million annually, as was unanimously recommended last year by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. In fact, the same committee recommended this level of investment years ago, but the funding has never materialized — and even promises of funding at a lower level have not been kept.
The HIV Legal Network has also produced a series of concise issue briefs that outline top issues for Canada this World AIDS Day. These briefs have been shared with all Members of Parliament to help them take action to strengthen Canada’s response to the ongoing HIV pandemic, including by protecting the human rights of people living with HIV and of those communities that have been particularly hard-hit by the virus.
The briefs can be found here and focus on:
- HIV and Human Rights
- HIV: Funding the Fight
- Drug Policy: Decriminalization, Harm Reduction, and Safe Supply
- Prison-based Needle and Syringe Programs
- HIV Criminalization
- Sex Workers’ Rights
- LGBTQ Rights, with a focus on the Caribbean
We know that public health crises require adequately committed funding up front, to avoid devastating future costs — in terms of lives and taxpayer dollars. We see this as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate worldwide; the same is true for HIV.
This World AIDS Day, Canada has an opportunity to be a world leader in promoting human rights and ending the HIV pandemic. The time is now.
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About the HIV Legal Network
The HIV Legal Network (www.hivlegalnetwork.ca), formerly the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, promotes the human rights of people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV or AIDS, through research and analysis, litigation and other advocacy, public education, and community mobilization.
Janet Butler-McPhee, Director of Communications and Advocacy
HIV Legal Network
Telephone: +1 647-295-0861