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AIDS orgs in the dark about new ACAP funding

Groups not sure if it's new, old or extended money

Federal health minister Tony Clement announced an increase of $2.6 million in funding for the AIDS Community Action Program (ACAP) in the next two fiscal years at AIDS 2008, the 17th International AIDS Conference held in Mexico City, Aug 3-8.

The additional $2.6 million means that AIDS service organizations across Canada can access a total of $12.1 million dollars per year over the next two years.

However, this increased amount represents an approximate 13 percent decrease from the budget of $13.9 million proposed by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in its report, AIDS Community Action Program, Grants and Contribution Allocation Project 2005 completed in March 2006.

AIDS Vancouver executive director David Swan, whose organization receives about 2 percent of its funding from federal sources, says he’s not aware of the announced ACAP increase.

He says he did, however, receive an email recently from the federal government saying that his organization can apply for an extension to its existing programs, but he’s “trying to sort out exactly what they’re telling [me].”  Swan adds that he isn’t sure whether the email represents “new money, old money or extended money.”

“From our perspective,” he notes, “[federal funding has been] shrinking a little bit this year. For the province, we’re losing about $300,000,” he estimates.

“If you ask me if I need more money, absolutely; particularly in our prevention education work which is quite a concern.  I can’t actually establish whether this [$2.6 million] is new dollars or dollars we know about.” 

Cheryl Dowden, executive director of Nelson, BC-based ANKORS, an HIV/AIDS service organization, is also not aware of the new ACAP funding.  “We just received a call out to apply for ACAP funds for 2009-2010.  This is attached to programs that are already being funded.” 

Dowden’s organization receives ongoing federal funding which accounts for about 35 percent of the annual budget for its prevention and education programs. “We’ve had a number of slight increases through upward amendments to our agreements,” she says, but notes that “our work has definitely become more challenging.”

“We cover 52,000 square kilometers that go from Rock Creek in the west to Fernie in the east and north up to Nakusp.  We’re dealing with 30-plus communities and it’s very, very challenging to do the work that we do on the budget we have.”

Although the new funding is designated for organizations in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, no one contacted at PHAC offices in either Vancouver or Ottawa could explain if, or how, these funds are being allocated regionally.

When asked about the origin of the new funding and the timing of the announcement, no one at PHAC’s Ottawa headquarters could provide an answer, nor could anyone Xtra West contacted in Minister Clement’s Ottawa office.

The PHAC website explains that of the current year’s budget, $9.5 million is already allocated.  It also notes that, “the Government of Canada acknowledges and respects the critical role that frontline organizations play in addressing HIV and AIDS.  Without their efforts, the Canadian epidemic would be inflicting far greater damage than it is currently.”

Groups interested in the new funds can solicit them directly from PHAC.  PHAC is extending the application deadline to Mar 31, 2010.