Update on transitional funding / agreements from LOI and the need for us to start mobilizing NOW

It’s a changing landscape for the HIV movement — certainly more volatile and unpredictable than any time over the past two decades.

All of us have been feeling the pressure — at local, regional and national levels. This is particularly true for the over 30% of community-based HIV organizations who will no longer be federally funded by the Public Health Organization of Canada (PHAC) beyond 2018 — unless we make a concerted effort to change the direction of current trends and work towards ensuring increased federal funding for all of our sector’s needs.

To be sure, the situation is serious; but our future is not yet etched in stone. From our perspective, today’s challenges provide an equal measure of opportunity — but only if we collectively seize the day. And the time to create our collective future beyond 2018 is NOW.

Last fall CAS was among the dozens of organizations across the country that received a shocking response from the Letter of Intent (LOI) process to our applications for funding. Following initial bewilderment, CAS in concert with its national, regional and local partners, rapidly mobilized to fight the cuts and we successfully restored “transitional” funding to community organizations until March 2018.

What did we do to obtain transitional funding?

It wasn’t easy; it took a concerted effort from many local, regional and national organizations to achieve even this modest postponement. Together we:

  • Organized a letter writing campaign targeting the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister, Opposition Leaders and Health Critics, provincial and territorial Premiers and Health Ministers and PHAC.
  • Initiated personal meetings and lobbying with key influencers on Parliament Hill.
  • Drafted news releases and participated in media interviews.
  • Button-holed MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill during the Red Ribbon event for World AIDS Day.
  • Encouraged opposition parties’ demands in Parliament to increase the Federal Initiative.

Subsequent follow-up meetings with PHAC senior staff resulted in an offer for transitional funding which was generally viewed as a stop-gap measure to give organizations a year to wind down or find alternative funding or partnerships. At CAS, we see it as an opportunity for the HIV movement to mobilize, adapt to changing needs and create stable secure funding for 2018 and beyond.

For now we can breathe a very brief sigh of relief — but we must not rest on our laurels. Those funding cuts were more than a shot across the bow of the HIV movement. We should interpret it as a clear warning of things to come — including possible further erosion of the Federal Initiative for HIV — unless we collectively mobilize to make our case for our continued relevance as part of the health care delivery network within Canadian society.

Meanwhile, in collaboration with national partners, CAS is moving forward in discussions with PHAC to increase the Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada and restore funding to all community-based organizations for 2018 and beyond — and the national partners have written a compelling letter to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Minister of Health with this specific request.

Many of you reading this update personally heard the Minister of Health re-emphasize her desire to increase funding in the Federal Initiative during the February 23-24 “Stakeholder Meeting to Identify Concrete Actions to Address STBBIs in Canada.”

To this end, we have reason for some optimism in that the Minister of Health has clearly stipulated to some National Partners that she would welcome our assistance to help her be an advocate to increase the Federal Initiative.  In essence, it’s our job to help her help us.

What should we all be doing now?

From our perspective, we must collectively mobilize to simultaneously make the case for our continued relevance today and begin to make changes to adapt to the changing world of the future. Specifically we should concentrate on three areas over the medium term:

  • Continue to mobilize and communicate at the local, regional and national levels to make the case for the services we currently offer.
  • Develop new collaborative approaches with specific populations consistent with the federally-endorsed UNAIDS 90-90-90 objectives keeping in mind that our focus should also be on the 10% left behind in this goal by addressing gaps and related underfunding.
  • Aim to broaden our service delivery to our communities to include not only HIV but all STBBIs as well with a fully funded model.

The federal government has some legitimate goals in attempting to streamline the delivery of services and prevention for STBBIs as a whole although it should not be by siphoning much needed funding from the Federal Initiative for HIV in order to address any gaps.

It’s up to us to decide if we are willing and able to take on this challenge and be part of a larger solution. We look forward to being in a position to discuss more on these points at our Annual Meeting in May (please visit our web site for details on scholarships for the PLWHIV Forum and the Annual meeting).

Where to from here?

We have glimpsed a possible future … and it remains as a distinct possibility over the short term — only one year from now — that over 30% of community-based HIV organizations will no longer be federally funded past 2018.

Our movement cannot allow this to come to pass. But we must both defend our present relevance and adapt to a new future to ensure that there is no further erosion of the Federal Initiative for HIV.

And we must set our sights to creating a climate that will result in an overall increase in federal funding for a multi-pronged approach to HIV, HCV and other STBBIs in the years to come.

If we are to have an impact … the time to act is NOW. You can begin immediately by sharing your views on this with your associates in the HIV movement across the country through Basecamp.

 A final note on the timing of transitional payments

There had been some talk that transitional payments would not be sent out in time to community organizations. We are very concerned about the timely payment of transitional and LOI payments to community-based organizations and, to this end, we have had many discussions with PHAC over the past several weeks.

While we are pleased to report that PHAC has now promised that a first payment will be made by the third week of April 2017, we remain concerned on several fronts and we are continuing our pressure for payments to be issued on the 1st of the month they are due.

Please let us know if you experience any delay beyond the third week of April as well as how such a delay specifically affects your organization.

Perhaps even more troubling for us all, we have also been hearing from several regions that some organizations are still in negotiation regarding their agreements following the LOI process. To add injury to insult, some organizations report that they are being asked for up to 20% in reductions from previously “agreed upon” amounts in these agreements. Further, several are being asked to “re-visit” their programs and deliverables at this time!

This is no way to treat community organizations!

You do not have to face this troubling situation alone. But we need to know your specific facts in order to be able to help you.

Please contact us as events unfold.

In Solidarity,

Gary Lacasse

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