Ms. Bonnie Brown, M.P., Chair
Standing Committee on Health
Room 147, Confederation Building
House of Commons
Dear Ms. Brown:
I am pleased to
respond, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to the third Report of the
Standing Committee on Health, Strengthening the Canadian Strategy on
HIV/AIDS, which was tabled in the House of Commons on June 5, 2003.
I would like to
take this opportunity to thank you and committee members for taking the time to
conduct such a thorough examination of this important public health issue. The report reflects the discussions that I
have had with people affected by HIV/AIDS across the country and identifies
important ways to strengthen the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS (CSHA).
As Minister of
Health, I am committed to maintaining an ongoing dialogue with people on the
front lines. They are the people who
deal with the epidemic every day, especially those living with HIV/AIDS. We gain great benefit from their unique
knowledge and insight.
The CSHA is intended
to continually adapt to the new and emerging realities of the epidemic and to
focus on persons living with and at risk to HIV/AIDS. Since 1990, the federal response to HIV/AIDS has been twice
renewed, evolving to meet the current needs of Canadians. Last September I asked Health Canada
officials to review the current federal role in the CSHA. The review examines the lessons learned over
the past five years, identifies current challenges and proposes new directions
and related funding.
As you may know,
the review was completed in July 2003, shortly after the release of your
committee’s study. Like the report of
the Standing Committee, it also recommends strengthening the Government of
Canada’s leadership and coordination of Canadian efforts in the fight against
HIV/AIDS. I intend to use the results
of this review to inform future discussions with my colleagues and I have asked
my officials to develop a renewed framework for the CSHA that will respond to
the needs of Canadians.
I would like to
take this opportunity to address some of the key issues
raised in your report.
Committee has asked for a significant new investment in funding for the CSHA. The Government of Canada remains committed
to providing financial support for the CSHA.
In 1998, the Government of Canada recognized the importance of a long
term commitment in fighting HIV/AIDS and shifted from time limited to ongoing
annual funding of $42.2 million. Both
funding and the importance of strategic investments will be key considerations
as we develop a renewed framework for the CSHA.
Committee has asked the federal government to continue to demonstrate
leadership in the CSHA. The Government of Canada remains committed to working with its
many partners to address HIV/AIDS both in Canada and abroad. We have made some progress in the fight
against HIV/AIDS, due in large part to the collaborative spirit resulting from
our many partnerships. Domestically,
Health Canada will continue to work with NGOs, provinces and territories, other
government departments and individual Canadians to address the challenges
presented by the epidemic.
Committee has asked for greater interdepartmental involvement in the CSHA. Of the many things that we have learned
since the CSHA was implemented in 1998, perhaps the most important is that
HIV/AIDS is multi-faceted and complex, touching many different aspects of
peoples’ lives. For this reason, I
strongly believe that Health Canada and other federal departments can make a
major contribution collectively to a more comprehensive, coherent and
coordinated approach that involves both the domestic and international
dimensions of HIV/AIDS.
Committee has asked for improved accountability for the CSHA to measure
progress under the CSHA and to meet the changing needs of Canadians as they
fight the epidemic.
Health Canada is working to improve both coordination and reporting on
the range of HIV/AIDS initiatives to better achieve the goals of the CSHA. As part of its renewal work, Health Canada
is developing a new set of measurable goals and objectives for the federal role
in the CSHA so that we can more effectively measure our progress and meet the
changing needs of Canadians as they fight the epidemic. As the Minister of Health, I will continue to
report regularly on the CSHA’s progress through the annual World AIDS Day
report and the Departmental Performance Report.
Committee has asked the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to
consider specific areas of research. The
areas outlined by the committee are important in moving the HIV/AIDS research
agenda forward. CIHR will request that
the HIV/AIDS Research Advisory Committee, which is responsible for identifying
HIV/AIDS research priorities, consider gender specific and culturally
appropriate research and research into non-pharmaceutical alternatives for
prevention and treatment.
Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS provides a unique framework through which our
partners work together on innovative approaches to prevention, care and
treatment of HIV/AIDS. Our goal is to ensure a compassionate, comprehensive and
effective Canadian response. We’ve fought many battles with this virus over the
past two decades and the Government of Canada is committed to continuing to
fight HIV/AIDS together with its many partners.
A. Anne McLellan