3.08.2005

BC AIDS Organizations silence lets Liberal Govt off the hook

Where is the fire that drove BC's AIDS organizations to demand health allowances for people living with HIV and got it in 2001, just to see the new Campbell Liberal government cut the allowance in half? Where is the demand for affordable housing they championed and were achieving before the last BC election, just to see the current government cancel those projects? Where is the demand for home, respite and palliative care? All of these services in BC have been cut or virtually eliminated.

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BC AIDS groups proud tradition for standing up and being effective advocates and care providers has vanished.

Responsibility for Healthcare in BC has been handed lock stock and barrel over to the health authorities. The provincial Health Minister, Finance Minister and government MLA's when asked will tell you, "We have given the money to the health authorities and they have the ability to move funds around to meet the priorities."

This practice is intended to insulate the government from responsibility or blame with the problems that exist in our healthcare system. This practice has worked very effectively for the government until the death of Barjit Bains at Surrey Memorial Hospital this past February. The Government could not shake off the fact they had repeatedly ignored reports and requests from the Fraser Health Authority for more money to alleviate serious systemic problems created by the lack of government funding.

Now as we move closer to the election, we know that many groups are being left out in the cold while others see a less than modest increase in funding. There have been modest increases in funding for some on disabilities yet this increase does little to address some of their real needs.

Today I am raising some examples of the government's crass public efforts to look as if they are doing something yet they have done nothing. Last fall they released a Crystal Meth plan. The plan is full of reasonable expectations, who should do what, how to achieve its goals yet has not one penny of new government monies to assist in achieving its goals.

Two years ago the government introduced a new HIV/AIDS document, The Priorities for Action. It acknowledges the need for prevention and education within many risk groups. Again like the crystal meth strategy, not one penny of new money is being added to achieve or implement those goals.

HIV/AIDS funding has not increased since 1994 for most organizations in our province. Agencies are being asked to do more in 2005 with 1994 dollars. It cannot be done. Most of the AIDS organizations are furious with the government's lack of action, yet are scared to speak out for fear of having their funding reduced.

Well meaning and respected people within the government service have come up with a provincial HIV/AIDS program that if implemented fully could have the plans desired effect of lowering new HIV cases from over 400 per year to 200 per year.

We will miss the goal to reduce HIV infections by a wide margin. The strategy will become an even bigger joke albeit a cruel one. It won't matter then as the current government will have won the election and can continue to blame the health authorities or simply ignore HIV/AIDS as they have for the last four years.

The catch 22 for AIDS organizations is clear. Speak out now and tell the people of our province what is happening and risk losing their funding or continue along writing reports and letters to government telling them the need for more support and with the slimmest of hopes someone in government will do the right thing.

Currently the prevailing attitude within BC’s AIDS organizations is to remain quiet. They meet together to plan action and like the government come up with plans to raise awareness in the public of the dire need for more government funding. The plans developed need then to be implemented. Now can any of you reading this recall the last time you heard publicly from AIDS organizations that they were not being provided the funding they needed?

Most AIDS organizations have capitulated. They have become nothing
more than poorly paid stretcher-bearers for government.
Where is the fire that drove AIDS organizations to demand health allowances for people living with HIV and got it in 2001, just to see the new Campbell Liberal government cut the allowance in half? Where is the demand for affordable housing they championed and were achieving before the last BC election, just to see the current government cancel those projects? Where is the demand for home, respite and palliative care? All of these services have been cut or virtually eliminated.

AIDS organizations need fewer government apologists and more leaders that care about those vulnerable to HIV and or living with HIV/AIDS. Stretcher-bearers can deliver people to the door, but if there is nothing beyond the door just what is the purpose of it all.

3 comments:

bruce said...

Sounds like another classic case of Government beating people into submission, and it worked. Aids organizations were born out of activism and it seems like they have forgotten that. That’s a shame, the struggle isn’t over by a long shot, in fact, it could get worse. These organizations need to remember that they are not just humanitarian administrations but people fighting for other peoples’ lives.

Rick Barnes said...

Hi Bruce,

The government does have AIDS groups scared. I have been on the inside with the three largest BC AIDS groups during the last six years.

These groups have been beaten back by the current government to the point of being silent. The prevailing mood within these groups is one of forced passive acceptance.

What they must do is start speaking out as you put so well. To do less is to accept the inadequate health care and support for those living with or vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

Silence = Death was once our motto. What has made it acceptable today?

Anonymous said...

This is no surprise, and that the only solution is for gay men to unite and create in their own interests what they want to create.

There is no reform of the AIDS institutions to be had, they are has-beens for the most part.