The Actions:
What We Will Do Between Now and 2010

1. Increase awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS and increase the commitment to sustained funding for HIV/AIDS programs and services

Rationale

Despite the lack of high-profile HIV education campaigns over the past 10 years, most Canadians think HIV is a serious health issue* (60% consider it very serious and 35% somewhat serious).41 A survey of Canadian youth in grades 7, 9 and 11 revealed that most students are relatively knowledgeable about HIV, and their level of knowledge increases as they age.42 These relatively high levels of public/youth awareness are likely due to:

  • media coverage of the international epidemic
  • sexual health education (School was the main source of information about human sexuality and HIV/AIDS for 51% of males and 41% of females in Grade 9 and for 67% of males and 58% of females in Grade 11)43

While members of the public are fairly knowledgeable about HIV, they have some misconceptions that could affect ongoing support for HIV programs. For example, about 81% of Canadians surveyed think the treatments available now are effective, and 17% believe that if people with HIV are treated early the disease can be cured -- which is, of course, not true.44 Youth tend to have these same misconceptions,45 which are often reinforced by the lack of media coverage of HIV issues and by inaccurate media reports.

To achieve our goals, we must correct these misconceptions and maintain or increase current high levels of awareness of HIV/AIDS among the general public -- including young people -- and among community and political leaders. We need the support of the general public to ensure ongoing government support as well as private donations for HIV programs and services.

The level of government support can be measured in terms of leadership (e.g., speaking out on HIV issues, convening national fora on HIV/AIDS and funding HIV/AIDS programs and services at home and abroad). Over the past 10 years, Canadian governments have spent less per capita on HIV than other developed countries that have achieved lower rates of HIV infection (e.g., the United Kingdom and Australia). Canadians generally support appropriate government spending on HIV,46 and there is some political will to provide funding. For example, in June 2003, the Standing Committee on Health recommended an increase to $100 million in funding for the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS,47 and the federal government has acted in part on that recommendation.

Despite increases in government funding, HIV programs and services will always have to compete with other health concerns for limited resources. A paper commissioned by the federal Ministerial Council on HIV/AIDS makes a persuasive case for sustained government funding for HIV, and this information should be used to continue to advocate for adequate funding.48

It is also important for players at all levels to engage the private sector and increase private donations for HIV/AIDS initiatives. For example, contributions to the British Columbia Persons With AIDS Society dropped 25% in each of the last two years.49 In their efforts to solicit charitable donations from the private sector, HIV/AIDS organizations are competing with a wide range of health and social causes. To compete effectively, they need clear, sustained and consistent messages about the impact of HIV on society and the benefits of investing in HIV programs and services.

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Desired outcomes

The Canadian public will:

  • be aware of the impact of HIV in Canada and the rest of the world
  • understand the factors that contribute to the epidemic
  • support the need for programs and services to prevent HIV infection and to provide care, treatment and support to those affected by the epidemic
  • receive consistent, comprehensive sexual health education, including education about HIV/AIDS, in school
  • be knowledgeable about STIs, including HIV, how STIs are spread and how to protect themselves
  • stop discrimination against/stigmatization of people with HIV/AIDS

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Political leaders in Canada will:

  • be aware of the impact of HIV in Canada and the rest of the world
  • understand the factors that contribute to the epidemic
  • support a comprehensive approach to stopping the epidemic, including providing adequate sustained funding, recognizing and addressing the impact of social determinants of health and developing supportive laws and policies across departments and branches of government
  • speak out in public about HIV/AIDS and Canada's commitment to a stepped-up response

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In addition,

  • per capita spending on HIV in Canada will be comparable to that of other developed countries that have achieved lower rates of HIV infection (e.g., United Kingdom, Australia)
  • the business sector will provide more leadership and support in the fight against HIV
  • the business sector will provide more leadership and support in the fight against HIV

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Targets

Awareness

  • Between 2004 and 2010, public awareness of the impact of HIV in Canada and globally remains at 90% or higher.
  • By 2010, the proportion of the Canadian public who have misconceptions about HIV/AIDS drops by 50%.
  • Between 2004 and 2010, media coverage of HIV/AIDS issues increases and is accurate and positive.
  • By 2010, the proportion of Canadian youth who can accurately answer questions about how HIV is spread and how to prevent transmission will increase by 10% to 15%.
  • By 2010, sexual health education -- including information about HIV/AIDS -- is part of all school health curricula in Canada and is delivered consistently.
  • By 2010, the number of times political leaders speak out on HIV/AIDS issues increases significantly.
  • The prime minister of Canada opens the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto.

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Commitment to sustained funding

  • By 2007, all jurisdictions should have adopted a strategic approach or analyzed their position in moving forward with this series of actions.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, public support for government funding of HIV programs remains at 90% or higher.
  • Federal government funding reaches the level proposed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health ($100 million) as soon as possible.
  • By 2008, provincial/territorial governments have increased their budgets and/or have allocated dedicated funds for HIV/AIDS beyond the cost of providing care and treatment (e.g., physician and hospital services).
  • By 2010, private donations to HIV/AIDS-related causes have increased significantly.
  • By 2010, the business sector provides more financial support and is actively engaged in sponsorships and other HIV/AIDS activities at home and globally.

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Actions

Awareness

1.1 Identify high-profile leaders at all levels -- among people living with HIV, communities at risk, local communities and municipal, provincial, territorial and federal governments -- who will speak out and raise public awareness of HIV/AIDS and its impact.
1.2 Develop ongoing communication strategies and key messages for the public, political leaders and the media about the impact of HIV, the continuing epidemic in Canada and globally and the need for ongoing support and funding.
1.3 Ensure that sexual health education, including education on HIV/AIDS, is a mandatory part of all school curricula and is delivered in all schools.
1.4 Make more effective, strategic use of the media -- nationally, provincially, territorially and locally -- to raise awareness and correct misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.
1.5 Capitalize on the 2006 International AIDS Conference, being held in Toronto, to increase media coverage and public and political awareness of, and commitment to, stopping the spread of HIV.
1.6 Develop the capacity -- nationally, provincially, territorially and locally -- to respond immediately to any negative or inaccurate information about HIV/AIDS, people living with or vulnerable to HIV and/or factors that affect their health.

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Commitment to sustained funding

1.7 Provide adequate sustained funding from the private sector, government and the Canadian public for HIV/AIDS programs and services as well as other initiatives that address the social factors and inequities driving the epidemic.
1.8 Continue to track the social and economic cost of HIV/AIDS and develop economic models that can be used to advocate for adequate sustained funding.

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Research/monitoring

1.9 Continue to survey the general public and youth in Canada at regular intervals to assess their awareness, level of knowledge and support for HIV/AIDS-related services. Use the findings of this research to refine awareness programs.
1.10 Monitor public and private investment in HIV/AIDS-related programs and services and use the findings to advocate for adequate funding.
1.11 Reassess how HIV resources are allocated to achieve common goals.

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Footnotes

41
EKOS Research Associates. HIV/AIDS -- An Attitudinal Survey. March 2003.

42
Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Study: Factors influencing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. 2003.

43
EKOS Research Associates. HIV/AIDS -- An Attitudinal Survey. March 2003.

44
Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Study: Factors influencing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. 2003.

45
Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Canadian Youth, Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Study: Factors influencing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. 2003.

46
EKOS Research Associates. HIV/AIDS -- An Attitudinal Survey. March 2003.

47
Standing Committee on Health. Strengthening the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS. June 2003.

48
Martin Spigelman Research Associates and The Project Group. Taking Stock: Assessing the Adequacy of the Government of Canada Investment in the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS. January 2001.

49
Vancouver Sun. September 2004.

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