Dear Rob Ford,
We are writing in response to your solitary vote last week against a 100% provincially funded, one-time, transfer in the amount of $100,000 to combat the ongoing elevated rates of HIV and syphilis in Toronto. You claimed your vote was in order to protect tax payers money, even if it was provincially funded. In light of your other requests to the province for funding (asking for $150 million to balance your budget), it’s hard not to see your vote and accompanying statements as an attack against people who are at risk for HIV and syphilis. While we are all at risk of sexually transmitted infections, some of us are at greater risk because of social inequity, stigma, and discrimination. Many of these individuals are gay men, low risk women, newcomers, Aboriginal peoples, and youth. Your actions suggest the health of people who are at risk for HIV and syphilis is not worth your time and our money, and this is a big concern for us. Furthermore, there are a number of ways in which your vote is based on inaccurate knowledge and poor economics.
First, prevention of HIV and syphilis has economic benefits. Studies estimate that an averted HIV infection saves approximately $150 000 in lifetime medical costs. Therefore, if this transfer averts just two HIV infections, it will have saved money.
Second, your assertion that your vote against this was in order to protect taxpayers’ concerns implies that you either believe people who are at risk for HIV and syphilis don’t pay tax, or that they do, but for some reason, their health issues are not important. This belief comes from a place of stigma and homophobia.
Almost 20,000 people have tested HIV-positive in Toronto since the beginning of the epidemic. Many people continue to be at risk for HIV and syphilis. Prevention efforts are needed to help reduce the spread of these infections; your support for these efforts is important to help protect the health of vulnerable people - who are also taxpayers - and to society as a whole.
As a group of people affected by HIV, we invite you to meet with us so you can meet with people living with HIV/AIDS, people who are at risk for and have had syphilis, and so that your future decisions about HIV and syphilis prevention are more informed.
AIDS Action Now