Activists are calling for more HIV funding from Ottawa as an AIDS conference opens in Montreal.

As an international AIDS conference opens in Montreal this week, Canadian HIV and AIDS organizations say Canada’s response to the disease at home has stalled.

Advocates say federal funding to fight HIV and AIDS has been frozen since 2008, even though the number of people living with the virus in Canada has increased by 25 percent since then.

“The number of new infections is fairly stable rather than declining,” Richard Elliott, with the Toronto-based HIV Legal Network, which advocates for the rights of people living with HIV, said Tuesday. said in an interview.

Elliott, who is scheduled to speak at the Montreal conference, said his organization is part of a coalition of groups calling for an increase in federal HIV funding from $73 million a year to $100 million. 2003.

“If this overall $100 million envelope is actually delivered, we can step up our research game,” he said. “We can fund more organizations to reach more populations with frontline HIV prevention work, and then support and treatment programs.”

AIDS 2022, the 24th International AIDS Conference, is scheduled for July 29 to August 2 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. It brings together researchers, healthcare practitioners and people living with HIV. Previous editions have attracted more than 20,000 participants.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, about 1,500 people in Canada were infected with HIV in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available. There are now more than 62,000 Canadians living with HIV.

Not only has funding been frozen, but money earmarked for AIDS research has been diverted to fighting other sexually transmitted diseases, Elliott said. Recently, several hundred thousand dollars were transferred to organizations responding to the monkeypox outbreak, Elliott said, adding that while it’s “great” that these organizations are receiving more funding, it’s not HIV organizations. Shouldn’t cost.

“It’s the same old paradigm that expects underfunded organizations, with insufficient funds, to continue to face more and more challenges, rather than providing the resources to meet these new challenges. Plus, with the HIV epidemic actually ending the business, which is far from over,” he said.

The federal government says that in 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV in Canada knew their status. 87% of people with HIV were on treatment. And 95 percent of people treated had an undetectable viral load.

But Ken Monteith, executive director of a network of AIDS organizations in Quebec called COCQ-SIDA, says the statistics show that Canada has failed to meet all of its 2020 targets – which the United Nations and global They are part of the joint commitment of the health organization. He said that the targets were 90 percent in all three categories.

Canada has targets to reach 95 percent in all three categories by 2025, a target set by UNAIDS. But Monteith, who is participating in several panel discussions at the conference, says he thinks Canada is unlikely to reach those goals.

“If we don’t change our currency and provide enough funding, we won’t get there,” he said.

Judy Jollimore, executive director of the Community-Based Research Centre, a Vancouver-based organization that advocates for transgender health, said Ottawa needs to “compel” provinces to make more drugs like PrEP available. – which is highly effective. In HIV prevention

“It’s not just about funding, it’s about leadership, and we need the feds to show leadership on this,” said Jullimore, who is scheduled to speak at the conference.

“We have some of the best tools for HIV prevention right now, we just need to get them into the hands of the right people.”

Health Canada spokesman Mark Johnson said it will work with the government, health care workers and community groups to reach the 2025 sexual health targets on HIV.

The federal government, Johnson said in an email, “is committed to ensuring that people in Canada have equal access to prevention, testing and care for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.” be.”

– Jacob Cerebrin, The Canadian Press