The federal government gets a failing grade on supporting girls and women in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to a new report card.
Tuesday's report by the Coalition for a Blueprint for Action on Women and Girls and HIV/AIDS assigned Ottawa poor grades for funding cuts, laws and practices that it says run counter to the evidence on the epidemic.
For a country rich in resources, Canada is doing poorly on HIV/AIDS because of a lack of political will, said Louise Binder, a Canadian lawyer who was diagnosed with HIV in 1994. She is part of the coalition.
"We have certain populations in Canada that are actually in Third World conditions as it relates to prevention, care, support and legal and ethical issues," Binder said in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning from the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.
"The aboriginal population that makes up less than three per cent of our overall population has more than 10 per cent of the infections. Half of them are women."
If the federal government was doing a good job in prevention then those numbers in Canada would be better, Binder said.
Federal funding has been cut for bodies that uphold human rights for women in Canada, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as well as funding for about a dozen aboriginal health groups, aboriginal women's groups and the National Association of Women and the Law, the group said.
Health research investments
Binder called on the federal government to start by reversing those cuts.
Funding for aboriginal HIV/AIDS groups has been protected, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq countered in an interview with CBC's Power and Politics from Washington, where she is attending the 19th International AIDS Conference.
"Since the reductions in other areas, our government invested an additional $25 million in aboriginal health research with aboriginal people by aboriginal people in partnerships with universities," Aglukkaq said. "We our protecting frontline health-care services."
Aglukkaq called it historic that aboriginal groups were part of the conference's main session, a change she said Canadians pushed for.
The conference ends Friday.