Health

Leo Glavine raises flag for AIDS awareness after cutting funding to support groups

Tuesday marked the beginning of HIV/AIDS Awareness Week in Nova Scotia

Health Minister Leo Glavine raisies a red ribbon flag for AIDS Awareness Week
Health Minister Leo Glavine (centre left) raises a red ribbon flag for AIDS Awareness Week.   Guillaume Lapointe-Gagner

Health minister Leo Glavine said support for AIDS support groups in Nova Scotia is a priority for the provincial government Tuesday. Glavine made the remarks at a flag raising ceremony at Province House, despite cutting funding to some local HIV/AIDS community groups in the Apr. 2015 budget.

Province House raises red ribbon

Tuesday marked the beginning of HIV/AIDS Awareness week, and Province House commemorated the occasion by raising a red ribbon flag as a show of support.

The flag raising is an annual event, but it’s something that Dr. Bill Hart, former chair of the Nova Scotia Advisory Committee on AIDS, said he hopes won’t happen next year. Hart said he hopes there will be a cure in the near future. In the meantime, however, he said he was there to show his support.

“We need to support our sisters and brothers and husbands and wives and the whole population,” said Hart.

Government cuts funding to AIDS groups

In Apr. 2015 the provincial government cut funds to several health and wellness community groups. One of those groups that partially relied on government funding was the AIDS Coalition of Cape Breton.

Christine Porter, the executive director of the organization, said about 22 percent of their funding was cut. She said that’s around $25,000 of their total revenue.

Porter said those funds were going towards projects like needle redistribution programs and LGBTQ work in rural communities. She remains hopeful that the government will reinstate their funding in the future.

“If we were to get that back it wouldn’t just go to maintenance of the status quo, we would need a whole lot more money to incorporate any growth,” she said.

Another AIDS support group, the Northern AIDS Connection Society of Truro, had $12,000 worth of funding cut. Albert McNutt, a board executive member and HIV survivor, said it wasn’t a significant part of their revenue, but that he feels frustrated whenever cuts are made.

“Some of us – we struggle to get funding. And when we do – I get upset when we don’t get granted sometimes.”

Health minister responds

Minister Glavine said he’s not against the possibility of reinstating funding for local AIDS community groups. In fact, he said he was in Sydney on Monday to meet with the AIDS Coalition and see what kind of work they were doing.

“[I] took a look, in fact, at a myriad of programs they offer, not just dealing with HIV/AIDS, but certainly their prevention work is remarkably strong with their needle exchange, sexual health education,” Glavine said.

“I gave them an indication that we would be reviewing stability for their funding for the future.”

When asked why his government cut funding in the first place, Glavine suggested some organizations needed to be more self-sustaining.