In Canada, we have more knowledge and tools to fight HIV than ever before, so why are HIV cases still rising? While science and technology continue to advance our response to HIV–like U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) and PrEP–funding hasn’t budged in 15 years. Since federal funding was last increased in 2008, the number of people living with HIV in Canada has increased 25%.
More HIV cases means greater support needs among communities already disproportionately impacted by HIV, while many programs for prevention and support are at risk of closing due to underfunding. As a result, people living with or at risk for HIV aren’t getting the support they need.
When it comes to federal HIV funding, we must also think about health equity. Indigenous and Black Canadians are disproportionately impacted among new HIV cases, and more than half of people living with HIV are among gay, bi, and queer men. Without a serious commitment to supporting people most impacted by HIV, we risk worsening these inequities.
So how much is the Government of Canada spending on HIV? For the last 15 years, funding has stagnated at around $73 million per year. This falls far short of the value recommended by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health—first in 2003, and again in 2019. This group, made up of MPs from all the political parties, has now twice recommended that $100 million be spent yearly on the federal government’s response to HIV in Canada.
After all, ending the HIV pandemic isn’t just a lofty goal. The government has committed—both to Canadians and to UNAIDS—to reaching the latest 95-95-95 goals by 2030. But to do this, we need a funding plan that aligns with the necessary investments. To put it in perspective, the last time the budget increased for HIV, Nokia still held about 40% of the market share for mobile devices, selling phones with 11 megabytes of memory.
To respond to the insufficient federal funding for HIV in Canada, CBRC is proud to be a part of the National Advocates’ new campaign to call for the federal government to make a decisive commitment ahead of AIDS 2022, held in Montreal on July 29-August 2.
Learn more about the campaign and
sign a letter of support at HIVfunding.ca.
While resource limitations have restricted HIV services for many years, funding is now spread thinner than ever. Due to COVID-19, the overdose crisis, and even now recent outbreaks of monkeypox, community-based organizations for HIV have had to expand what they do. For some organizations, supporting COVID-19 testing and mitigation strategies, overdose prevention, and a range of other community health needs, have created additional strain on their finances and operations.
These services have also faced increasing pressure to respond to other sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs). Beginning in 2017, the Government of Canada’s funding stream for HIV was reorganized as part of the Community Action Fund. This meant that applications for HIV funding had to compete with STBBIs like HCV, syphilis, and gonorrhea, which have also faced rising cases and recent outbreaks.
With many community-based HIV organizations being pushed to the breaking point, we have to respond with urgency. This summer, Canada is hosting the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, and it’s time we show up as a leader in HIV response. This means providing the resources for HIV service organizations in Canada to do their job.
Join the campaign to increase federal HIV funding in Canada, and add your voice so the federal government understands that they must do more than deliver promises and platitudes in Montreal.
By Michael Kwag
Knowledge Exchange and Policy Development Director