AIDS Committee

Aid for AIDS: It’s never been so easy to help

PAULA TERRY-LANCASTER

As the election nears, with formal advance polling beginning tomorrow, the subject of fiscal responsibility in government continues to be an issue dear to many electors’ hearts. And the current federal deficit means many non-profit and not-for- profit organizations have seen their funding slashed as the government attempts to reduce its costs.

But any reduction in spending on HIV and AIDS prevention is a false economy, says Gerry Croteau, the executive director of the AIDS committee of Simcoe County.

The services his organization has provided, in terms of disease prevention since its incorporation in 1995, are highly cost-effective versus the costs of treating new cases of HIV via our health-care system.

“There are 30,000 people in the province who are living with AIDS, 10,000 of those outside the GTA,” says Croteau, whose organization is part of the Ontario Aids Network. “There are 2,500 new cases diagnosed in Canada each year, and we’ve had seven of those confirmed here in Simcoe County just in the last three months, all of whom were infected locally. A further 30% of people with HIV are unaware of their status.”

Overall, 25% of new infections are diagnosed amongst women, with the fastest growing groups being female teenagers aged 15 – 19 and post-menopausal women in their 50s and 60s.

“This latter group is often made up of women whose partner of a lifetime has recently died,” says Croteau. “They are newly single for the first time in over 30 years, are often lonely, and in many cases completely naïve about the need for safety in today’s ‘dating’ scene.”

According to Croteau, community- based services like his that invest in prevention, care and support programs were able to avoid between 6,728 and 13,456 new infections in the period between 1984 and 2007. At an estimated cost of $370,000 per person with HIV in the province for direct care and treatment costs alone, AIDS service organizations in Ontario saved the health-care system between two and five billion dollars in costs over the same period.

The ACSC is funded in part by the province and also by revenue from the Boardwalk Gaming Centre’s Bingo activity, but those sources provide only 70% of the required funding. The remainder must be raised through corporate and individual donations, in order for the agency to maintain its current level of programs and services.

As part of this year’s fundraising effort, entitled ‘A Taste for Life!’, two area restaurants, The Local Gastro Pub in Barrie at 37 Dunlop St. West and The Bank Cafe at 179 Mill St. in Creemore, are hosting a three-course dinner on April 27 for $40 per person, with a quarter of the proceeds going to the ACSC. A silent auction of local artisans’ work will accompany the Creemore dinner.

For information and reservations, call 705-252-9220 for the Gastro Pub, or 705-520-2233 for The Bank Cafe. Additional info is available at www.atasteforlife.org.The Aids committee of Simcoe County can be reached at www.acsc.ca,or by calling 705-722-6778.

Paula Terry-Lancaster is the owner of Write First Time, a freelance writing consultancy based in Barrie.