Funds once earmarked for HIV lab go to research

Millions of dollars once earmarked for a Canadian HIV vaccine-production facility now will be spent on research and preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has announced.  But critics say it's not new money and it isn't coming fast enough, the Toronto Sun notes.

A partnership between the federal government and the Gates Foundation had set aside $88 million for a lab to produce pilot HIV vaccines, but the program was cancelled in February. That decision triggered controversy among scientists, as well as some harsh criticism from the companies that hoped to win the contract to build and operate it.

"Through the launch of the CHIV Research and Development Alliance, Canada continues to lead the way in the global fight against HIV and AIDS," says Minister Aglukkaq. "Today's announcement reflects our Government's continuing commitment to help find a cure for this devastating virus which crosses borders, cultures, genders and backgrounds."

But Aglukkaq faced renewed criticism after the announcement. Ralph Goodale, the Liberal House Leader, said in news conference Tuesday that the new money touted by Aglukkaq is really old money. "Today's announcement by the Minister of Health, some $30 million for undefined research and another $30 million for maternal health, all comes from this prior unspent $111 million commitment," Mr. Goodale said, as quoted by the Globe and Mail. "All of which leads us to ask: where is the remaining $51 million and where are all the other required elements to have a decent Canadian plan?"

However, Dr. Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise in New York, says he is pleased with the government's announcement. "I think it's an important relationship," Bernstein says, as quoted by CBC. "I think both parties could have agreed to walk away from the first iteration of this partnership.

- read the Canadian government's statement
- get more from CBC
-
see the Toronto Sun report
- read more from the Globe and Mail

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