Canada has a reputation as a global health pioneer, particularly in HIV/AIDS research. Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) was introduced to provide generic drugs to developing nations, and immediately received praise at the United Nations.
But CAMR proved totally ineffective, as it took until this September to send its first shipment of generic drugs to Rwanda. And we can’t expect this continue, since Apotex, the company responsible for the shipment, said it won’t participate in CAMR again. Both Apotex President Jack Kay and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network blamed extensive bureaucracy within Canada for making the process extremely difficult.
Canada also needs to rethink some aspects of its domestic policy. When the federal government joined the international Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s HIV/AIDS vaccine initiative, it did so by re-allocating nearly $26-million from their Community Action Programs (CAPs). While we support all vaccine research initiatives, this decision effectively froze the funding of many community prevention and treatment programs across Canada. Quebec alone saw a 24 per cent cut in its community programs. These decisions dramatically affect the lives of the 62,000 Canadians currently living with HIV/AIDS, and the 4,000 more who will be infected this year.
The Daily strongly supports Canadian efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, and understands the motivations behind their decision to work with the Gates Foundation. However, we would hope they would take into account the effects this decision had on smaller programs. Domestic and international AIDS research dollars should be at odds with each other – Canada should draw funds from elsewhere than CAPs to donate to international programs.
If Canada has so many resources, why is the government making it so difficult for AIDS patients – both in Canada and abroad – to get the medication and treatment they need? Just six weeks after the federal election, The Daily encourages students to remain active in holding their MPs accountable – particularly about Canada’s policy toward HIV/AIDS. Through CAMR and CAP, Canada has the potential to make a concrete effort to help the all those affected by HIV/AIDS domestically and worldwide. Parliament needs to focus on the details and implications of its legislation, not on the publicity awarded to empty policies.