News / Ottawa

Indigenous AIDS group fears for patients as funding set to be cut

The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network is facing a 46 per cent cut in some of its government funding.

Indigenous People in Canada are infected with HIV at a rate much higher than the rest of the population.

MANJUNATH KIRAN / AFP

Indigenous People in Canada are infected with HIV at a rate much higher than the rest of the population.

An organization dedicated to dealing with the high rate of HIV infection in Indigenous communities is disappointed to see some of its funding cut nearly in half.

The Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network (CAAN) has had funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada — approximately $900,000 in 2017 — reduced by 46 per cent in next year’s budget.

Ken Clement, the network’s CEO, said they use that funding to look at the big picture and ensure HIV prevention and treatment programs are culturally relevant.

“It’s a high-level kind of work that supports community organizations,” said. “We enshrine in the work culture as prevention, culture as advocacy. Culture is the base of the work we all do.”

Indigenous people have an HIV rate 2.7 times higher than the general population, and 11 per cent of new infections are within the Indigenous community.

The Public Health Agency said they’re still aggressively funding projects involving HIV and the Indigenous Community, including CAAN, which will receive almost $2 million between now and 2020, plus funding from other government agencies.

In a statement they said they support projects most likely to reduce the spread of HIV.

“These projects focus on slowing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, decreasing the number of people who are unaware of their infections, increasing the number of people who are accessing treatment, and reducing the impact of stigma,” said Gary Holub, a spokesperson for the department, in an email. “The program does not fund an organization’s operations.” 

Clement said he would like the government to reconsider. He said having less money means they will be able to do less to ensure Indigenous people receive treatment that is relevant to them.

“Indigenous rights to equitable health, without discrimination and stigma, is key to ensure we approve and support healthy indigenous people in Canada.”

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