Save the City of Toronto’s Global AIDS Initiative from the Chopping Block: We can afford it

It is once again that time of year in the City of Toronto.  No, not the holiday season of merriment and giving, but the season of scrooge and “restraint.”  Yes, the City’s budget process.  On the chopping block this year, the City’s Global AIDS Initiative.  The Initiative was first funded in 2006, and in last year’s budget was approved to be administered by Schools without Borders who worked with partners in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana–take a look at last year’s activities.  Here is the text of the deputation we made to the Budget Committee on 10 December, urging them to save the Initiative:

“Good afternoon councillors. Thank you for the opportunity to give a deputation before the budget committee.

My name is Jordan Bond-Gorr, and I am here as a representative of AIDS ACTION NOW!, an organization committed to improve access to treatment, care and support for those living with HIV/AIDS in Canada and around the world.

It is to speak about those living with HIV/AIDS globally that I wish to speak to today ; in specific, I wish to address the cut being offered by Public Health of the Global AIDS Initiative.

This sum, $104,000, was part of Toronto’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against HIV/AIDS was made as part of the 2006 International AIDS Conference. Toronto’s commitment showed a spirit of understanding and compassion, of generosity borne of the knowledge of our many advantages, a sense of our cooperative ability to fight HIV/AIDS at home and abroad. It is, in a sense, the best of who we are as Torontonians.

In the budget, you are faced with a choice to keep Toronto’s word or renege on it. When there are viable options to save this initiative, it is a strong ideological statement for you to make to go back on this commitment. African lives abroad don’t matter in this budget. They are a line item that can be crossed out and never worried about because they’re unseen, unheard and without a voice.

We are a city that prides itself on our diverse immigrant communities; given this cultural diversity, cutting this initiative says exactly whose lives are valued at home as well as internationally. Budget committee members be clear on what going back on your word says to your constituents and the citizens in Toronto. When you create the crisis through disregarding alternatives, you are now at liberty to show the international community what matters most to Toronto. In essence, the worst of who we are.

As host city of World Pride 2014, do you show the world that in Toronto we value all lives affected by HIV/AIDS, or do you close your eyes, recant your word and simply say “not our problem”|

At AIDS ACTION NOW we are here to advocate for the faceless & the voiceless. They are not voters or taxpayers. They will never be able sit before you and call you to task for your actions. So we will.

As you consider this budget, understand you have options. You can save the Global AIDS Initiative. You can ensure services and programs you will hear about today from other citizens also are enriched or saved. There are options. Raise property tax. Those who can afford to pay will.”

Please consider emailing your City of Toronto Councillor to support the Global AIDS Initiative.  You can find your Councillor’s email info here.

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