Up to 40 % of HIV/Hep C organizations across Canada have been defunded under the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund, the new funding cycle from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Although a year of transitional funding has been put into place by PHAC, the reality is that at the end of that transition period, many organizations will be forced to close their doors or change their services in very significant ways. These changes will daily impact the health outcomes of thousands of Canadians because these organizations put prevention and the social determinants of health at the core of their work.
We will be sharing these organizations’ stories, stories of resiliency in our darkest hour, because their stories are what make our movement what it is.
Maison Plein Coeur
Since 1995, Maison Plein Cœur has received programming funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). In April 2016, we submitted two Letters of Intent (LOI), one for a community alliance project to provide support for women living with HIV in Montreal, and another for our Contribution Agreement for our Volunteer Coordination, Drop-in, Massage and Monthly Supper, Transitional housing and art therapy programing. On September 29 2016, we received notice that both our submissions were rejected. For our Contribution Agreement, the main reason given was that these programs were within provincial jurisdiction and could no longer be funded by the Federal government. At the moment, it is unclear whether our provincial government will be open to funding such programs. The loss of $96,000 in funding for the 2017-2018 fiscal year will be drastic.
As a holistic approach towards HIV integrates prevention, support and treatment, putting support programs in jeopardy will unfortunately contribute to adverse effects not only for people living with HIV but also for the greater society.
IMPACTS TO OUR ORGANIZATION:
- Four staff positions are affected, as 85% (80,000$) of our current existing PHAC funding covers salaries. This represents half of our staff team and 25% of our overall salaries: Volunteer Coordinator, Accompaniment and Transitional Housing Coordinator, Administrative Assistant and Executive Director.
- Immediate cuts, primarily to administrative expenses, are being planned within our current budget in an effort to transfer as much surplus as possible to our next fiscal year. However, our existing budget was already lean and there is only so much more that can be cut from our operational expenses;
- We will be forced to charge fees, or ask for larger voluntary contributions, for accessing most of these essential programs to help cover their costs;
- As 100% of the Volunteer Coordinator position’s salary is currently covered by PHAC, we will be forced to make tough decisions on how to sustain this Volunteer Coordinator position, for example, by possibly reducing this to a part-time position, to save on salary expenses. We cannot imagine an organization like ours, founded on community engagement, continuing to operate without a Volunteer Coordinator. In 2014-2015, we relied on the active involvement of 115 volunteers, almost 2/3 of whom were directly supervised by our Volunteer Coordinator.
- As volunteers enable us to offer a significant part of Maison Plein Cœur’s programs, our ability to effectively manage these volunteer resources will be seriously in question as we will lose funding for all volunteer management expenses, including recruitment, training, on-going support, recognition and evaluation.
- Without this capacity to coordinate the involvement of volunteers, it will seriously hamper our capacity to maintain our massage, car accompaniment, drop-in and monthly supper programs. We will be forced to consider possible cuts to these essential programs.
IMPACTS FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV:
Potential cuts to these programs will lead to:
- An increase of social isolation experienced by people living with HIV;
- Weakening of social support networks among people living with HIV;
- Lessened contact with volunteers who can provide referrals to health and social supports, as well as other community resources;
- Lessened contact with staff who can provide support around their mental, emotional, physical, sexual and overall health;
- Fewer opportunities for peer-based support;
- Fewer referrals to other health and social supports;
- Greater financial insecurity, as people living with HIV, many of whom are already living in hardship, will have to pay fees to access some essential programs;
- Increased barriers to access food banks, leading to greater food insecurity and worsened diet and nutrition;
- Increased barriers to get to their medical appointments could mean that people living with HIV might miss essential medical appointments, affecting their health and their ability to effectively adhere to their treatment regimens;
- Given the known relationship between treatment adherence and viral load suppression, barriers to adherence could make the goal of maintaining undetectable viral loads more challenging.
IMPACTS FOR THE GREATER SOCIETY:
- More people living with HIV will have unmet needs around their mental, emotional, physical, sexual and overall health and will need to access our already overburdened healthcare system;
- Lessened undetectable viral loads among people living with HIV will lead to more HIV transmission towards HIV-negative people.