Quebec without AIDS: “What if it was your daughter?”

Quebec without AIDS: “What if it was your daughter?”

In a few days, Montreal will host the International AIDS conference. However, the community sector denounces a lack of government strategy. During the conference “For an AIDS-free Quebec by 2030”, he sent a clear message to the various levels of government.

“In Canada and Quebec, we just don’t have a strategy, and there, we welcome experts from all over the world, but we don’t have a plan. […] we want to take advantage of the moment to say: let’s make a plan and we are there with solutions,” explains Guy Gagnon, chairman of the board of directors of the Coalition of Quebec Community Organizations for the Fight against AIDS (COCQ-SIDA). “We in the community have done it, we are reaching out to public health […]but the initiative, it comes from the community, currently”.

He is asking for more funds from Ottawa and Quebec.

The federal government makes its contribution to the International fund […]but internally funding has stagnated since 2008, when there was a 25% increase in Canada.

Guy Gagnon

For the president of the Quebec AIDS Foundation, Yvan Lemieux, the government must trust the expertise of the community sector. Beyond trust, it is a partnership that he wishes to see established.

The community sector is asking in particular that PrEP be made free. For Guy Gagnon, the calculation is simple as to the usefulness of making these treatments free. Pre-exposure treatment (PrEP) in particular prevents exposed people from becoming infected.

“Each new infection (prevented) is going to save thousands of dollars a year for each new person. There doesn’t seem to be any understanding of that logic, he says. We are asking for free PrEP because it is a very small cost compared to the cost of treatment and health care for a person living with HIV”.

Quebec explains that it does not provide for 100% reimbursement of PrEP. Its cost of more than $200 per month is less than that of triple therapy which amounts to more than $1500.

UNAIDS had set goals to end HIV transmissions by 2030, which Canada joined in 2019.

“And if it was your daughter?”, this is the question posed by Dr. Jean Robert to government representatives. The latter works at the Dispensary and fights to offer free treatment to people infected with HIV who are unable to afford it.

The political system must stop despising the community and be able to recognize that we are doing what they are not capable of doing since we have our feet in it. […] trust us.

Dr Jean Robert, the Dispensary

For Dr. Robert, governments need to get out of the “rational system” to allow universal access to treatment.

Quebec without AIDS: a “betrayal” of the City of Montreal

Sandra Wesley, president of the table of Montreal organizations fighting against HIV/AIDS, wonders where the City is when it comes to this public health issue.

“Unfortunately what we have seen is the production of a magnificent action plan […], but no action by the City. Public health is mobilized, the community is mobilized, she says. The elements of the action plan that fall under the City have not been done at all, then we see contrary actions”.

Sandra Wesley explains that many people living with HIV, employees, community organizations and affected communities, were present at the launch of the Montréal Sans Sida action plan in 2018.

To see over the years that the actions do not follow, people are disappointed […]. When they dangle us with something better, when they let us believe that maybe we will be heard this time, it’s worse, people experience it a lot as a betrayal on the part of the City.

Sandra Wesley, co-president of Montreal Without AIDS

“The mayor (Plante) signed the action plan, then she didn’t do anything else, explains Sandra Wesley.

The president of the Quebec AIDS Foundation shares this observation. “She (the mayor) has signed Montreal Without Sida, but there is no program that has been established […]. Afterwards, it fell into a dead letter, explains Yvan Lemieux. We really want to be Montreal Without AIDS, the community sector could do it, but we need support from all governments”.

The City defends itself by explaining that it has signed the Paris Declaration and says that it is “a global model in its fight against AIDS and against discrimination in all its forms”.

“We have implemented a ‘Montreal, City without AIDS’ action plan which represents a roadmap including orientations and courses of action to put an end to new infections, explains the City. We will continue to work together to improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens and those affected by HIV”.

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