by Paul Henderson, Black Press
Dozens of proponents of a recently defunded service for people living with HIV and hepatitis C made surprise visits on Tuesday to Fraser Valley MLAs and MPs.
The group, on behalf of the Abbotsford-based Positive Living Fraser Valley (PLFV), conducted a bus tour to deliver impact statements to politicians in Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack.
The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) social work students, along with employees and clients of PLFV, said federal government funding cuts leave people with HIV and hep C from Langley to Boston Bar without services.
"I don't really know what I'm going to do without them," said Abbotsford’s Janet Wilson, who is HIV positive.
“They have gone through hell with me. They are a huge part of why I am alive today."
PLFV executive director Kari Hackett said the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) funding changes are catastrophic for approximately 1,000 folks who rely on the services.
And as the Fraser Health region has the highest rate of hepatitis C in the province and one of the highest overdose rates, ending services that monitor affected individuals will be severely detrimental, she said.
Hackett said PLFV services affected by the funding cut include medical transportation, a food bank, support workers, support groups, drop-in centres, access to emergency housing, public education, peer development, and many other services.
Social work students at UFV rallied behind the cause and said they couldn't sit idle as vital services were lost.
Dr. Theresa Tam, deputy chief public health officer for PHAC, said in a Nov. 9 email to PLFV that the new HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund had a new direction, one that has some "disappointing" consequences for organizations such as PLFV.
Tam said the new "integrated fund" came out of a consultation process with stakeholders.
"This resulted in new priorities, priority populations and eligible activities, and focusing efforts on, and investing in, interventions that have the greatest potential to make an impact."
Transitional funding for an additional year was extended, meaning that funding ends March 31, 2018.
Hackett wants to know if PHAC, in assessing under its new formula, pondered the realities of populations that need services outside of the densest urban communities.
"Did they take into consideration geographic areas that will be left without services?" she asked.
Hackett said Burnaby to Boston Bar will be left out based not only on PLFV losing funding, but other organizations that also lost funding that are not based in Vancouver.
Hackett said the PHAC move means they would lose $354,000 in funding, essentially ending their ability to operate.