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Conservatives Put HIV/AIDS Researchers Back to Square One

Posted on July 20, 2010

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Conservatives Put HIV/AIDS Researchers Back to Square One – With Half the Money

July 20, 2010

WINNIPEG- Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s announcement of a “new” HIV/AIDS researchfund is half what Prime Minister Stephen Harper originally promised in 2007,say Anita Neville, Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre and Terry Duguid,Liberal Candidate for Winnipeg South.

Comingon top of scrapping an $88-million HIV/AIDS pilot vaccine plant for whichWinnipeg was a leading contender, Neville and Duguid say that today’sreannouncement of reduced funds for HIV/AIDS puts the lie to the government’scommitment to maternal and child health.

“This isa government that is willing to spend $1.3 billion on security for a 3-daymeeting and $16 billion on an untendered contract for fighter jets, but cutsits budget for AIDS research almost in half,” said Neville. “For all thefanfare about this government’s commitment to maternal health, it just showsyou where Stephen Harper’s priorities really are.”

Duguidsaid that the decision to scrap the vaccine facility and start over with a newprocess is yet another setback for Winnipeg’s HIV/AIDS research community.

“TheConservative decision to kill the vaccine facility was a huge loss for Winnipeg,in terms of jobs, investment and reputation,” said Duguid. “If theConservatives hadn’t dragged out this process, the facility could be underconstruction, right now. Instead, we’ve lost four years and are back at squareone, with no guarantee that Winnipeg’s research community will get the fundingit deserves.”

InFebruary 2007, Stephen Harper and Bill Gates announced a $111-millioncommitment to the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, whose centrepiece was an$88-million pilot vaccine manufacturing facility, for which Winnipeg’sInternational Centre for Infectious Diseases was a leading contender. Thatproject was scrapped in February 2010, after applicants spent years andmillions of dollars preparing submissions. Duguid was CEO of ICID when itprepared the bid, but stepped down to run for the Liberals last August.

Today,Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, re-announced $60-million from the same fundHarper and Gates announced in 2007, $51-million less than the originalcommitment.