Yesterday, the government of Canada announced $650 million in new funding over three years for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
This is the good news. The dollars contributed to the Global Fund go directly towards helping people living with HIV in developing nations access life-saving treatment. In 2013, UNAIDS reported the scale-up of treatment has enabled nearly 10 million people to gain access to these life-saving medicines. These successes have been in large part due to the efforts of the Global Fund.
Evidence has proven treatment can eliminate progression of HIV infection to AIDS and premature death, and dramatically decrease HIV transmission. The made-in-Canada "Treatment as Prevention" strategy, pioneered by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, calls for widespread HIV testing and immediate provision of these HIV medicines. It's a strategy that's been proven to work, here in B.C. (the only province to formally implement this strategy), and around the world, where it has been adopted as the national strategy in China, US, France, Brazil and others.
In July 2013, the World Health Organization incorporated "Treatment as Prevention" as the new cornerstone of the global guidelines. This has expanded the eligibility for HIV treatment from 15 million to over 25 million people in low and middle-income countries. While this imposes a tall order in the short term, it has the potential of radically changing the course of the epidemic. Recent analyses demonstrate that the full implementation of the 2013 WHO guidelines could avert over three million AIDS deaths and four million new HIV infections by the year 2025.
The Global Fund has set a target of $15 billion in funding. We cannot afford to miss this target.
Given these circumstances, Canada's newly announced contributions are not nearly enough, especially when compared to our international peers. This newest pledge is equal to approximately $6 per Canadian per year, far less than the nearly $8 per UK citizen and $10 per Nordic citizen.
This is all part of an ongoing trend by our federal government to marginalize people living with HIV and AIDS. Ottawa will rightly pride itself about their investments in research aimed to develop a cure or possibly a vaccine. However, what good would it make to support research if we are not going to implement their results? InSite and HIV "Treatment as Prevention" are just two examples of Canadian successes that are simply not palatable to the federal government.
In Canada, lack of a renewed National AIDS Strategy has led to rising new HIV infections, particularly in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Ottawa. The federal government is failing to address the rapid rise in HIV cases among First Nations, an area of their direct responsibility. And now globally, Canada has failed to match the contributions of key donors in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The government of Canada's leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS is long overdue. I urge the Harper government to fully embrace the made-in-Canada HIV "Treatment as Prevention" strategy nationally and match our peers' contributions to the Global Fund.
We have an opportunity to deliver on the promise of an HIV and AIDS free generation in our lifetime. The only piece missing now is the political will to make it happen.
Follow Dr. Julio Montaner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@bccfe