Sask. outreach groups say HIV rates will suffer after federal funding cut

Two Saskatchewan organizations say they are left in the dark about why their federal funding was cut for AIDS and HIV outreach work.

All Nations Hope had $350K cut in federal funding, while AIDS Saskatoon had $293K cut

Jason Mercredi says Health Canada cut $293,000 of funding for AIDS Saskatoon, which makes up about one third of their overall budget. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)

Two Saskatchewan organizations say they are left in the dark about why their federal funding was cut for AIDS and HIV outreach work.

Jason Mercredi is the executive director of AIDS Saskatoon and Jann Ticknor is with All Nations Hope in Regina. Together, the two organizations had a combined total of $643,000 of federal funding cut and they're not really sure why.

"I don't know if I can promise you we'll be doing HIV work after March 31," Ticknor told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition on Thursday. 

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of HIV cases in the country. A large portion of the cases is due to intravenous drug use. In northern communities, the number of cases is on the rise. 

Ticknor said All Nations Hope provided services such as connecting clients with therapists, counsellors and healers, as well as basic things like community outreach and meals.

AIDS Saskatoon also provided services to central and northern Saskatchewan.

Together, the two organizations provided services to a significant percentage of Saskatchewan. 

"In Saskatchewan, it's ourselves in Saskatoon and All Nations Hope ... who are also losing their funding, which is confusing for us, because between the two organizations, we actually do hit the whole province," Mercredi told Saskatoon Morning.

The Battlefords Family Health Centre in North Battleford also had its federal funding cut. 

"Through the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund (CAF), the Government of Canada is taking an evidence-based approach to support an integrated response to sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, focusing on interventions which best reach populations at-risk and support interventions with the greatest potential for impact on disease prevention and reduction," Health Canada said in a statement. 

Ticknor said everything the two organizations did was prevention work, whether it was talking with the families or providing them with educational materials. 

"So, they can say their piece about prevention but prevention and HIV is a much broader scope than intervening on people who don't have it yet," Ticknor said.

The funding provided to the organization now is transitional while the Sask. organizations without funding search for new funding avenues. 

Mercredi said he thinks the HIV rates in the province will suffer.

"We're not going to be able to work with the most vulnerable people in providing them the tools and information they need to prevent those infections from happening," Mercredi said. 

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning and The Morning Edition