Universal Access to HIV/AIDS Treatment

In order to create universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) supports:

  • The creation of a federal program to provide catastrophic drug coverage1 in Canada, as advocated by the Canadian Treatment Action Council and the Best Medicines Coalition.2

  • Legislative amendments to Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, as proposed by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network,3 to reduce red tape and encourage its use by Canadian generic drug manufacturers, non-governmental organisations and developing countries.

Since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to treat HIV/AIDS, access to treatment has been unequal and often impossible, based on income and geography.

People living with HIV/AIDS in Canada face unequal access to treatment through the lack of a federal government program to cover the high cost of treatment for chronic or life-threatening diseases and conditions for Canadians who are working but have limited or no private insurance. Today, Canada remains one of the few industrialised countries without a nationally supported catastrophic program to assist with the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs.

While some Canadians are reimbursed for the cost of prescription drugs through an inconsistent patchwork of private and public drug plans depending on the province or territory where they live, many Canadians have no prescription drug coverage at all.

For people living with HIV/AIDS in the Global South, unequal access to treatment stems from the fact that developing and least developed countries have no capacity to produce pharmaceuticals, and the cost of importing patented drugs from industrialised countries is prohibitive.

Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR), established in 2004, created a legislative framework to allow Canadian manufacturers to produce generic pharmaceutical products for export to developing countries.

However, unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic hurdles within the Regime have prevented both Canadian generic manufacturers and importing countries from using the program. As of October 2008, only one shipment of generic drugs has been made under CAMR to a developing country.

The AIDS Committee of Toronto believes that a world without AIDS can only be achieved when all barriers to treatment are eliminated, regardless of an individual's income or geography.

1 According to the Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC), a catastrophic drug plan is "a publicly-mandated and funded health insurance plan which covers prescription drug costs for chronic, life-threatening diseases and conditions for individuals who do not have private health insurance or whose private insurance is insufficient to cover their prescription drug costs."
2 Best Medicines Coalition, "National Pharmaceuticals Strategy: An Urgent, Emerging Issue", Canadian Treatment Action Council Newsletter. Summer 2006.
3 Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Review of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime - Legal Network Submission to the Government of Canada. January 24, 2007.