HIV and Poverty in Canada

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Supporting Clients with Income Needs - A Survey of CAS Members
Ainsley Chapman and Nichole Downer. Canadian AIDS Society, Ottawa: 2004

What CAS did:
We sent out a form to 120 members, asking questions about the programs that respond to the income needs of their clients.

What we found:
45 members replied to the survey, indicating that they did provide services that respond to the income needs of their clients.

Types of Services:
  • 71% provide benefits counselling, 30% provide benefits workshops, and 48% provide financial planning
  • Only 16% provide emergency loans, but 68% of these provide non-repayable emergency funds
  • 46% provide a food bank and 14% provide a community garden
  • 18% provide workplace sensitivity/outreach and 18% provide work-related training to clients
  • 68% provide support in finding housing
  • 75% do advocacy to increase access to treatment
  • 68% do general advocacy activities, while 82% advocate on behalf of their clients
  • 86% provide support to clients filling out forms when applying for government programs, and 66% accompany their clients to appointments and appeals

Who is using these services?
  • 53% of ASOs reported that over 80% of their entire client base use these services.
  • 29% did not know or did not respond.
  • 18% of ASOs reported that between 20 and 50% of their entire client base use these services.

How are these services being funded?
  • 93% of ASOs reported that these services are being sustained by fundraising.
  • 65% of ASOs reported that these services are being sustained by operational funding.
  • 55% of ASOs reported that these services are being sustained by short-term project funding.

Ability to Meet Needs of the Programs
  • Only 56% indicated that the needs of their ASO were met, while 34% indicated that their needs were not met, or only slightly met
  • When asked for reasons why their program needs were not met, 92% indicated that there was a lack of funding and 45% said there was not enough staff to run the program.
  • 11% indicated that they could not respond to the demand that was generated by the inadequacy of government-based income programs.

What Does This Mean?
Poverty among people living with HIV is a serious issue, and ASOs are struggling to develop and sustain programs to meet these needs.

A large percentage of clients that are accessing ASOs across Canada are using the services that targeting income needs. These needs include housing, food and nutrition, treatment and emergency funds. They also include supports to help them plan and manage their finances, assistance in navigating the social safety net, and advocacy to challenge discrimination that is experienced in both the workplace, and as an applicant/client to public income support programs.

Poverty and economic insecurity is not only an issue for people living with HIV, but a lack of financial and human resources for ASOs is the number one barrier to being able to provide support to clients facing economic challenges. Despite efforts to sustain programs through fundraising, or through combining private funds with operational or project funding, there are still not enough resources, as ASOs report that they are not able to meet the needs of their programs.

What Action will CAS Take on This?
  • Work with the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS to ensure that the new resources that are being allocated to the strategy are directed to community based ASOs.
  • Follow up on existing resolutions and recommendations, and continue to confer with CAS membership to identify what new actions members would like us to take.
  • Develop an Action Plan to make poverty a priority on the government agenda.
  • Support ASOs by developing and distributing tools and training