Tories confirm new AIDS funding of $120M

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fund raisingCANDA - The federal government chose World AIDS Day to announce its long-awaited HIV-AIDS initiative package, pledging to spend an extra $120 million this year.

International Co-operation Minister Josée Verner made the announcement at a news conference in Montreal on Friday.

"We subscribe to this year's theme, which is to put a stop to AIDS," she said in French. "The new Canadian government is determined to play a very important role in combatting AIDS."

AIDS activists had expected the funding to materialize during the World AIDS conference in Toronto in mid-August.

However, the Conservative government cancelled a planned announcement at that time, saying the AIDS gathering had become too politicized and was not the right place to announce the package.

The $120 million will go toward prevention programs, research, care and protecting the rights of women and children, who are highly affected by HIV-AIDS, the government said.

Canada will also continue with its pledge to give $250 million this year and next to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

More than 25 million people worldwide have died from AIDS since the disease emerged 25 years ago. An estimated 40 million are living with HIV-AIDS.

"Canada does recognize we have to do even more," Verner said. "We have pledged to take a long-term approach to combatting AIDS."

Much of the new money pledged Friday will support projects in Africa and Haiti.

Here's where some of the $120 million is going:

  • $41 million to support research into prevention technologies.
  • $20 million toward national HIV-AIDS plans in Tanzania.
  • $19 million for treatment and prevention programs in Haiti.
  • $10 million to support Mozambique's national AIDS council.
  • $15 million to research into a microbicide, a female-controlled method of preventing HIV transmission.
  • $20 million for research into a vaccine to prevent HIV infection.
  • $2.5 million for a project at Montreal's McGill University aimed at preventing parent-child transmission of HIV in Zimbabwe.

At the news conference, reporters asked Verner why the new funds will support international initiatives, as opposed to projects in Canada.

Verner didn't not answer the question directly, but hinted that other projects may be in the works.

"This is the first in a series of announcements that are coming," she said.

She later told CBC News she would let Health Minister Tony Clement make any future announcements that relate specifically to Canadian projects.

At the press conference in Montreal, Verner stressed that the projects Canada has so far chosen to support are ones that are working well in specific countries.

"We intend to focus on them, to reach some concrete results," she said.

Activists call for funding in Canada

Canadian HIV-AIDS activists have recently urged Ottawa to increase funding for research, prevention and treatment in Canada.

Although overall Canadian infection rates have stabilized in recent years, thousands of people still contract the virus, Ken Monteith, director of AIDS Community Care in Montreal, said Thursday.

"The estimates are really that a new person in Quebec becomes infected with HIV every six hours."

In Quebec, the rate of infection is increasing fastest among heterosexual women, who represent about 25 per cent of new diagnoses in the province, Monteith said.

"Fifty per cent of the women and children living with HIV or AIDS in Canada live in Quebec," he told CBC News.

There's a strong need for research funding and education, especially among younger people, Monteith added.

Teenagers often hold the false belief that AIDS is a curable disease, or is a virus plaguing Africa alone, Monteith said.

"Someone has to wake up and do better sex education in our schools, because young people are losing touch with this, and they don't realize it could happen to them," he said.

The federal funding announcement is the first since 2004, when Ottawa pledged to double HIV-AIDS research to $84 million by 2008.

source - CBC