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Canadians say feds not doing enough about AIDS

File photo Stephen Lewis with Patrick 4 Life youth ambassador Gerri Clout.

File photo Stephen Lewis with Patrick 4 Life youth ambassador Gerri Clout.

World Vision Canada
News Release


Stephen Lewis and members of the Canadian Coalition for Youth and HIV/AIDS in Africa (Care Canada, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada and World Vision Canada) reported today that since polling on this issue started in 2003 more Canadians (48 per cent) feel the government is spending too little on foreign aid contributions for HIV and AIDS. The vast majority of Canadians (91 per cent) say it is important for the government to help increase access to treatment for people with HIV and AIDS in developing countries.

These findings were part of an Ipsos Reid poll of Canadians' attitudes towards HIV and AIDS, released today at an event marking one year since Toronto hosted the International AIDS Conference that drew more than 25,000 participants.

"Last August, the world's top HIV and AIDS experts and advocates descended on Toronto for the AIDS 2006 conference, full of hope that the global health crisis would finally get the attention and resources it deserved," said Darryl Perry, executive director and CEO, AIDS 2006 Toronto Local Host, XVI International AIDS Conference and MC for today's event. "This year is different."

Findings from today's poll show that Canadians feel significantly less informed about the issue of HIV and AIDS now (70 per cent felt well informed) than they did in 2005 (80 per cent felt well informed) according to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted that year. NGO leaders at today's event suggested that an overall decrease in media coverage might be the cause for the drop.

"Media coverage of the pandemic goes up and down over time, but Canadians consistently want leadership from our government in helping people with HIV and AIDS in developing countries. I think it's safe to say that people haven't changed their minds on this since we started asking them in 2003, and they aren't likely to anytime soon," said Dave Toycen, president and CEO of World Vision Canada. "More than 10,000 people signed our petition this year demanding that children be given priority in the global response to AIDS."

Sarah Hendriks, Advisor-Gender Equality and HIV/AIDS, Plan Canada agrees. "I spend much of my life in Africa living and working with children infected with HIV, and it's hard to believe the rest of the world is ignoring their lives and deaths. If there is one success story from last year's conference it was the conscious decision to give young people a voice and to listen to them. They are the silent majority of victims."

Ninety-two per cent of the poll respondents knew that Africa is hardest hit by the spread of HIV and AIDS. More people than in similar polls conducted since 2003 understand that low education levels, poverty, sexual violence and lack of political will in the international community are the key causes of the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS.

"Last year, half of all people infected were under 25," says Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and the keynote guest speaker for the coalition event. "This is a continuing international emergency, and Canada is simply not doing enough. AIDS should rank on at least a par with Afghanistan. In the developing world, up to 80 per cent of infected children die before the age of five. It's a catastrophe that has to end."

David Morley, president and CEO of Save the Children Canada said, "Fighting this pandemic requires all of us - NGOs, governments and individual Canadians. We need to be generous and reach out to more children, youth and adults affected by AIDS. I believe we can continue to be effective in slowing the pandemic if we can deliver health services, education and livelihood support."

The Canadian Coalition for Youth and HIV/AIDS in Africa is a joint initiative of CARE Canada, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada and World Vision Canada to enhance the Canadian response to the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS in Africa. For three years, they have worked together on programming efforts in four countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique), reaching more than 3 million AIDS-affected children, youth and adults with health, education and economic support. The project has also informed more than a million Canadians about HIV and AIDS through its PictureChange photography exhibit.