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Toronto Star - www.thestar.com

HIV organizations to get ‘transitional project funding’

HIV/AIDS organizations whose federal funding proposals were rejected or reduced will receive ‘transitional’ funding until 2018, but some organizations are calling it a ‘Band-Aid solution.’

By Jackie Hong Staff Reporter

Nov. 16, 2016 - HIV/AIDS organizations that had project funding proposals rejected or scaled back by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) earlier this year breathed a temporary, cautious sigh of relief last week after learning they will receive “transitional project funding” until March 2018.

But some say it’s just a Band-Aid solution.

As the Star reported last month, several HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C community organizations historically funded by the federal government were told their proposals had been rejected or cut back just six months before their funding was to run out.

“For some of these organizations, the loss of project funding for next year was disappointing. For others, this represents the loss of an important source of funding which could impact the sustainability of the organizations and their work,” Minister of Health Jane Philpott acknowledged in a statement released last Wednesday.

“At my direction, the agency has investigated options for helping these organizations . . . . As a result, currently funded organizations that were unsuccessful in the recent competition will have transitional project funding for another year, ending Mar. 31, 2018.”

All 42 organizations currently funded that had their funding proposals rejected, and the 15 or so that had their funding reduced, are eligible for transitional funding and have been contacted by PHAC, agency spokesperson Rebecca Gilman said in an email.

The agency had already previously set aside $600,000 of its $26.4 million Community Action Fund as contingency funding, and PHAC is “looking internally at (its) priorities for 2017-18 to determine what can be delayed in order to temporarily reallocate funding to the transition funding,” Gilman said.

PHAC will be asking the organizations to “submit work plans and budgets that align with PHAC priorities and target populations,” and will also be helping “to facilitate or identify potential collaborations, partnerships and funding sources.”

The announcement is “good news,” said Terry Santoni, spokeperson for the Toronto-based Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC), but is only delaying what appears to be the inevitable.

CTAC focuses on accessible, affordable treatment for people with HIV and Hepatitis C and was completely defunded.

“It looks like, at this point, we’ll be looking at the same deficiencies in the prevention and treatment (community) after Mar. 31, 2018, probably for the two most burdensome infectious diseases in our country,” Santoni said.

The council, which focuses on accessible, affordable treatment for people with HIV and Hepatitis C, had its original funding proposal rejected.

“It’s good news, but it’s not comprehensive,” Santoni said. “It doesn’t help the patients or the people living with HIV or Hepatitis C on a long-term basis.”

The transitional funding is just a “Band-Aid solution,” Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) chief executive officer Ken Clement said. The network, which represents 26 member and associate member organizations that provide support for indigenous Canadians with HIV/AIDS, had its funding proposal reduced by two-thirds.

“My concern is: what happens after a year? Will we be in the same position? That’s the unanswered question right now,” Clement told the Star from CAAN headquarters in Vancouver.

“It’s great to have that commitment, but what happens after a year, and what’s the long-term plan here?”

All Nations Hope Network CEO Margaret Poitras agreed. The network, the only indigenous AIDS organization in Saskatchewan, had its entire funding proposal was rejected. Saskatchewan has an infection rate comparable to countries in the developing world, and where indigenous people make up the majority of new cases.

“The fact that we want to go with some of the deep-rooted issues that are surfacing for (indigenous) people who are living with HIV/AIDS . . . . It’s time, now, that we don’t Band-Aid the solutions,” Poitras said on the phone from Regina.

“We (can no longer) put Band-Aids on indigenous people, because the people are dying. They’re not making it to the doors of care treatment and support to be on HIV medications to live. They’re dying.”

While the Canadian AIDS Society is relieved by the announcement, “the fight for us is not over,” director Gary Lacasse said. CAS represents 85 community-based organizations.

“We’re happy . . . that, at least, the minimum guarantee (is) that the government offered us one extra year of financing to get our ducks in a row,” Lacasse said on the phone from Ottawa, “ . . . but, after 2018, or even from here to 2018, if we don’t have the capacity to continue (working with at-risk populations), who’s going to be serving those populations?”

“I’m just hoping we’re going to be able to serve the people we were serving prior to this whole kerfuffle.”

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Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/11/16/hiv-organizations-to-get-transitional-project-funding.html


"Reproduced with permission - Torstar Syndication Services"

Toronto Star
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