Keep the promise - Ontario AIDS organizations call on the Federal government to stop the cuts

    TORONTO, Nov. 29 /CNW/ - The Federal Initiative on HIV and AIDS, approved
by Parliament in 2004, promised to double funding for HIV/AIDS from
$42.4 million annually to $84.4 million by 2008. In the first three years of
the promise, funding to community-based AIDS organizations in Ontario for
essential prevention and support programs increased from just over $2 million
to just over $3 million for the 2006/07 fiscal year. However, this fall
without warning, the federal government cut previously announced funding for
these organizations by $1 million. The government has informed organizations
whose funding is due to expire in March 2008 that there will be a one-year
extension, but they have not confirmed to them how much the funding will be.
This is raising questions about whether the services can continue.

    According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the agency responsible
for administering the Federal Initiative, the goals of the program are to:

       "Prevent the acquisition and transmission of new infections;

       Slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life;

       Reduce the social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS;

       Contribute to the global effort to reduce the spread of HIV and
       mitigate the impact of the disease."

    "The funds were used for programs that save lives by preventing new
infections and improving the health of people who are already infected," said
Rick Kennedy, Executive Director of the Ontario AIDS Network, an umbrella
organization of 48 AIDS Service Organizations and programs in Ontario. "We
know that every day our work saves lives through prevention and education
programs, and by ensuring that people have access to treatment. Research shows
that the type of community-based prevention programs we offer have been
effective in greatly reducing the number of people who become infected."
    "We have been trying to get an explanation about why the cuts were deemed
to be necessary and what funding will be available in the future, but so far
we have not been successful," said Rick Kennedy. While we certainly support
global efforts to address HIV and health concerns around the world, it should
not be at the cost of Canadian lives. The original promise made sure that the
funding addressed needs here and abroad.
    Researchers estimate that the cost of each new infection is $750,000 in
direct and indirect costs. "We are the ones that will be asked "why?" by the
next person infected with HIV whose life is changed forever. It is hard when
you know that this person's infection might have been prevented," said Kim
Dolan, Co-Chair of the Ontario AIDS Network and Executive Director of the
Peterborough AIDS Resource Network. "Every day our staff deal with people
whose lives will never again be the same."
    "Stop AIDS, keep the promise," said Kennedy, "we are simply asking the
federal government to keep its promise to Ontarians to work with us to prevent
new infections and to support people who are living with HIV and AIDS."

For further information:

For further information: Rick Kennedy, Executive Director at (416)
364-4555 ext 308,

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