Canada’s health minister has intervened to prolong funding to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C organizations who were recently told they’d be cut off, according to a statement issued on Nov 9, 2016.
As Daily Xtra reported last month, changes to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s $26.4-million fund for HIV and hepatitis C organizations resulted in numerous, previously funded organizations losing their funding.
Now, Health Minister Jane Philpott says she has directed PHAC to extend funding to those organizations for one year, until March 31, 2018.
Philpott has also asked PHAC to assist organizations that were only approved for partial funding.
“The fight to eliminate HIV, Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted or blood borne infections is a priority for our government,” Philpott said in her statement. “Achieving our goals requires a comprehensive approach that includes a strong focus on vulnerable populations, with investment in interventions that have the greatest potential impact.”
Under the old funding model, PHAC’s Community Action Fund funded 124 organizations. This year, 41 organizations that had previously relied on PHAC funding were not invited to submit full proposals. According to Dr Gregory Taylor, Canada’s chief public health officer, PHAC received 224 requests for a total of $63 million in funding.
“For some of these organizations, the loss of project funding for next year was disappointing,” Philpott said in the statement. “For others, this represents the loss of an important source of funding which could impact the sustainability of the organizations and their work.”
It’s good news for organizations who were facing defunding this spring, but they say more needs to be to ensure that funding continues after 2018.
“We are relieved to see that our communications and lobbying have worked to persuade the minister to see that the process was flawed,” said Gary Lacasse, the executive director of the Canadian AIDS Society, in a statement. “We are encouraged to see that no one will be left behind for the coming year.”
The Canadian AIDS Society has relied on PHAC for nearly half its funding, and Lacasse says organizations working on the front lines to combat HIV/AIDS need more government support.
“It is not defunding these organizations that will keep these vulnerable populations on their medications and improving their social determinants of health,” he says. “We are asking that the Community Action Fund be increased and that those organizations be called back to submit full proposals beyond 2018.”
Terry Santoni, spokesperson for the Canadian Treatment Action Council, says the announcement is welcome, but calls it a “band-aid solution.”
“We’ll be looking at the same deficiencies in the prevention and treatment access issues after March 31, 2018, for the two most burdensome infectious diseases in the country,” he says.
Santoni says he doesn’t see how PHAC will be able to reach its goals of eliminating HIV and hepatitis C by 2030 by defunding organizations like CTAC. For its part, the organization is working to diversify its funding model through other grant proposals so that it can continue providing its services if PHAC doesn’t maintain funding past 2018.
“We are determined to remain strong and active,” Santoni says.