Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society

David Crowe, President
Phone: +1-403-289-6609
Fax: +1-403-289-6658

Kathleen Newell, Treasurer
Box 61037, Kensington Postal Outlet
Calgary, Alberta T2N 4S6
Phone: +1-403-220-0129

AIDS Funding in Canada

Alive magazine, December 2001

Health Canada funding amounted to over $160,000 for each of the 261 Canadians newly diagnosed with AIDS in 2000.

Medical funding often responds better to failure than to success, and AIDS is no exception. The pharmaceutical paradigm has not resulted in a cure, and many people are dying from the side effects of the drugs, such as anemia or kidney failure. Because most AIDS drugs suppress the immune system, it is difficult to separate problems caused by drugs from those caused by HIV.

Clinical research (mostly new drugs and vaccines) is the focus of almost $8 million of Health Canada’s annual funding. Recently, BC AIDS research Dr. Julio Montaner noted an increase in patients resistant to all AIDS drugs. Rather than questioning the effectiveness of an approach based entirely on toxic drug therapy, or the usefulness of the surrogate markers (CD4 cell counts and viral load) used to define treatment success (as opposed to the health of the patient, that often declines once drug therapy starts) he called for yet more research to produce yet more drugs.

Public health and epidemiology is another well-funded area (almost $2.5 million per year). This is another area where failure is ignored. Studies in Montreal and Vancouver have shown that clean needle exchanges increase, rather than decrease, the rate of HIV in IV drug abusers. The Montreal study showed a 10-30 times increased risk among drug users who always used clean needle exchanges compared to those who never did. The Vancouver study showed a relationship between amounts of drug used and being HIV positive. These conundrums lend support to non-infectious theories of AIDS, such as the multifactorial theory of Peter Duesberg, or the toxic chemical theory of Hulda Clark. However, there is never research funding available to study these ideas!

AIDS funding has been steady in Canada for several years, although AIDS drug treatment activists have called for more money for research, just like in the United States where a staggering US$93 billion was spent in the first 20 years of AIDS, with increases in funding every year. Perhaps part of the reason is that AIDS is much more visible in the US. By the end of 2000, a cumulative total of 774,467 cases had been diagnosed there, compared with only 17,594 in Canada. Even the 10 times difference in populations between our countries cannot explain a 44 times difference in incidence. The answer probably lies in the different definition of AIDS used in the US since 1993, one that has allowed almost two-thirds of recent diagnoses to be made in perfectly healthy people based on two lab tests (HIV test and CD4 cell count).

Medical funding thrives on incurable diseases, and HIV/AIDS has been marketed for the last 20 years as the greatest threat to world health. Those of us whose taxes are used to pay for the pharmaceutical research are discouraged from asking why alternative approaches are not funded, especially considering that the dominant approach has not led to a cure. Estimates of when a cure will be available seem to be moving further and further into the future, while reports of debilitating side effects from drug therapy continue to mount in the scientific literature.

Copyright © Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society, Friday, December 21, 2001.