Membership Message From Nine Circles Board & Management: Federal Funding Reductions

As many of you know, Nine Circles gets federal funding through the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to support some of our programs. You may have heard in the news or through social networks that there have been changes to HIV funding in Canada, and as a result, some Canadian HIV organizations and agencies who have been around for a long time are facing decreases or losses of funding. The board and management of Nine Circles want to share information about the process and how this change may affect Nine Circles when our current PHAC funding ends on March 31 of 2017.

 

Change of Funding

PHAC has funded some of Nine Circles programs for the past 18 years through the AIDS Community Action Fund (ACAP). Recently, PHAC has combined HIV funding with funding for Hepatitis C (HCV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through the Community Action Fund (CAF). This change means there are more people and projects splitting the same amount of funding that has always been available.

 

The National Response

This change in funding provides both opportunities and challenges to organizations and projects that address HIV prevention and support in communities. Here are how some other organizations have publicly responded:

Canadian AIDS Society:  Public Health Agency Of Canada Cutting Funding To Canadian AIDS Service Organizations

AIDS Action Now: Open Letter to Jane Philpott Minister of Health from AIDS ACTION NOW!

PositiveLite.com: Reports of Cuts to Funding Alarm the Canadian HIV Community

 

The Local Impact

Locally, the impacts will be similar to the federal experience. In Manitoba, proposals for new funding  will be accepted from both currently funded agencies as well as new agencies. All of these agencies are already connected by existing networks like the Manitoba HIV Program Collective Impact Network, the STBBI Prevention Collaborative and the Sexual Health Educators Network. Nine Circles will continue to work with our partners throughout the Province to support efficient, innovative and coordinated HIV/HCV/STBBI prevention activities.

As for our own funding:

  • Nine Circles has been invited to submit a proposal for the development of a Gay Men’s Health Alliance with a group of national agencies, led by CATIE  called  Hooking Up: A Pan-Canadian Community Alliance on Combination HIV /STBBI Prevention for Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer Men
  • Nine Circles may also be able to submit a proposal for prevention-focused activities, with details still to be announced by PHAC.

While we are excited for the opportunity to take on these new projects, the reality is that we will have less funding to work with. This new funding model also presents, both locally and nationally, changes that will be a real challenge to many in our community.

Agencies in Manitoba, including Nine Circles, have long been supported by the federal government to provide programs and services that reach out to individuals living with HIV/HCV who struggle to connect with and retain a connection with care, treatment and support services. Evidence clearly shows that individuals who are socially isolated face more health challenges and are more likely to engage in high risk behavior. In spite of this evidence, it is these types of programs and services that PHAC will no longer support both locally and across the country. Nine Circles believes this is a mistake as this shift in funding will weaken  agencies’ ability to help connect vulnerable populations to services and sustain those relationships over time.

PHAC’s reason for no longer supporting  these types of projects is that they see them as the responsibility of Provincial health services. With only a few months to transition, and during a time when other federal healthcare funding will be reduced, it is likely that we will see many agencies that have led the response to HIV and HCV across the country close their doors.

 

What this means for clients and participants at Nine Circles and the Manitoba HIV Program

These funding changes do not impact access to primary care services (physicians, nurses, social workers, occupational therapist, etc) directly. Primary care services are funded by Manitoba Health through regional health authorities. What Winnipeg-based clients should anticipate is that starting in April 2017 you will see a significant reduction in health promotion and healthy living focused programming as well as services that provide opportunities to connect with peers and community. Outside of Winnipeg, our hopes to expand access to these types of supports face a new challenge. However, we are committed to continue exploring new opportunities to offer this programming.

Over the next few months, staff, management and board members will be:

  • reviewing options in hopes of finding new ways to hold onto services that are most meaningful to our clients
  • developing new partnerships to connect our clients to services that may be available elsewhere.
  • exploring short term and long term relationships with new community-minded funders.

We are very lucky to receive financial support from community donors, through AIDS Walk and other events, which will allow us to create a plan to help make these changes . As we review our options, we will update our clients and members, seeking advice as we move through the process.

Questions about our efforts and potential impacts can be directed to us through ninecircles@ninecircles.ca. Questions or comments about the new funding model and its impacts can be directed to your local MP .