Inadequate funding for research, prevention will not help eradicate HIV in Quebec

On the XVIII International AIDS Conference's Eve (Vienna, Austria, July 18th to 23rd 2010), Mark Wainberg, PhD, co-director at Réseau Sida/Maladies infectieuses (FRSQ) and Dr. Réjean Thomas, president of clinique médicale l'Actuel denounce chronic underfunding in research and prevention related to HIV in Quebec and it's dramatic impact on the HIV epidemic and STI's. Researchers insist that the government double the amounts dedicated to these sectors.

Alongside prevention, the field of research constitutes one of the only avenues to eradicate the HIV epidemic. "The government must take awareness that we will not achieve HIV elimination if adequate funding is not dedicated to research", explains Dr Mark Wainberg. "Thanks to research, we have achieved tremendous progress, notably in the development of therapies, but the Québec government must support it's researchers in order to stem HIV transmission."

Far from being eradicated, the HIV epidemic presents approximately 400 new cases per year. This number is underestimated since it is the number of cases diagnosed. Bearing this in mind, the number of new cases per year in the province could easily reach 700. The number of individuals living with HIV in Québec is estimated at 18, 000, approximately 10, 000 of which are under antiretroviral treatment. Men having sex with men (MSM) remain the most affected group, representing over 70% of new cases.

As for STI's, the number of new cases per year continues to increase. The number of Chlamydia infections has been rising each year, especially in youthful populations, since 2000, reaching 15, 000 cases in 2010. Gonorrhoea follows suit with 1, 650 new declared cases in 2008. Syphilis, which we thought was history, resurfaces with more than one case reported per day, especially in men. Is it a necessary reminder to state that HIV and STI's are transmitted the same way?

The numbers of cases are rising but HIV funding stagnates in prevention/communication and research, and this has been the case for 20 years. The prevention and communications sector benefits, since 1989, of 3.3 million dollars per year, presenting a rather random distribution depending on the risk factors and with no more than 15% of the budget allocated to MSM.

Where research is concerned, the budget is of a mere 2.2 million dollars, 1, 250, 000 $ of which is allocated to Réseau Sida/Maladies infectieuses (the balance being allocated to research scholarship), and that has been the case since the network's creation, in the early 1990's. The Réseau Sida/Maladies Infectieuses supports close to 10 infrastructures, some of which are evaluated as being amongst the international best, with not much more than a million dollars in funding.

In regard to these numbers, the cost of antiretroviral medication for PLWHIV elevates to an annual cost of 150 million dollars and this amount only includes direct costs. Dr. Réjean Thomas stresses that "the issue at hand is not to reduce the funding of treatments but to significantly enhance that of prevention and research, which will enable the reduction of new HIV cases per year".




The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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