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Health

Global concern grows over Canada’s funding of fight against AIDS, TB, malaria

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Concern growing over Canada's fight against AIDS, TB, and malaria

OTTAWA — International concern is growing in medical and development circles that the Trudeau government is about to step back from its much-publicized global leadership on eradicating AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

In 2016, Trudeau announced with fanfare that Canada was contributing $804 million to the Global Fund, a 24-per-cent increase to the international organization that aims to curb the three afflictions that are now widely seen as preventable with the proper amount of medical and financial support.

The increase in Canadian spending was in keeping with past bump-ups to the Global Fund’s replenishment drive every three years, both from the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper and the Liberal governments before it.

But development officials in several organizations say they believe the government is simply planning to announce a repeat of 2016’s funding with no increase, which would be a first for Canada.

Chris Dendys, the executive director of Results Canada, a grassroots anti-poverty advocacy group, said that based on conversations that she and others in her sector have had with federal officials, the government is planning no increase because of a “cash crunch” heading into the fall election.

The Global Fund wants to see a 15-per-cent increase in total pledges this year, to US$14 billion.

A spokeswoman for International Development Minister Maryam Monsef said Canada respects the Global Fund and will announce its contribution in “due course.”

Canada recently announced at the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver that it will contribute $1.4 billion annually to 2030 to fund global health and nutrition, including sexual and reproductive rights and health, said Hanna Button, Monsef’s policy director.

“Our ongoing support to the Global Fund will be an important part of this holistic approach,” Button said in an emailed statement.

The Women Deliver funding is a reallocation of money from the current budget for international development.

“It’s really a matter of political will in an election year, or not an election year,” said Dendys, who noted that Canada’s overall spending on foreign aid has not been significantly increased under the Liberals to meet the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

She said the spending has not increased “beyond the basement of 0.26 per cent of GNI. There’s been plenty of opportunities to do the right thing.”

Canada’s last Global Fund pledge came at an international conference that Trudeau hosted in Montreal in September 2016, a star-studded event that featured U2 singer Bono, who founded the anti-poverty advocacy group, the One Campaign.

France will host this year’s pledging conference in October, in the middle of Canada’s federal election campaign, so advocates want to see Canada take the lead and deliver its increased pledge before the election writ is dropped, to show leadership to other countries.

Two other G7 countries, Britain and Japan, recently announced increased pledges of almost 17 per cent and five per cent respectively.

“Other countries are starting to move in that direction,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, the director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

“My bottom line is we want Canada to be not just counted but playing a leadership role, making an early pledge and in doing so, providing an example to the rest of the world.”

Montaner’s research led to the medical breakthrough that controlled and reduced the spread of HIV-AIDS in the late 1990s: the “triple cocktail” of antiretroviral drugs that has been credited with reducing mortality across the globe.

The approach has been replicated worldwide, and is now the cornerstone of the work of the Global Fund, he said.

“I am very hopeful that Prime Minister Trudeau will make an executive decision in short order to do the right thing,” Montaner said.

“He promised me, privately, before the (2015) election that he would do so. He did so in writing … I hope that he will be consistent with that kind of approach when it comes to supporting the Global Fund.”

Montaner said that with reduced funding the fight against the spread of HIV-AIDS will be curtailed and that will mean more long-term financial burdens on health care across the world.

About one-third of the Global Fund’s spending targets women and girls through programs aimed at comprehensive sexual and reproductive health, said Stuart Hickox, the executive director of the Canadian branch of One.

“If Canada doesn’t increase its support, it’s essentially a retreat from its leadership. We asserted that space in 2016 as a global leader in this area,” said Hickox.

Dr. Mark Dybul, who was the executive director of the Global Fund from 2013 to 2017, said Trudeau showed great leadership in 2016, mobilizing youth and creating a great sense of optimism at the 2016 Montreal event.

“I understand the pressures on budgets but I think given the leadership Canada had, in particular with this same prime minister and because of the emphasis on girls and women, I think it would be unfortunate if they didn’t follow the trend of the other donors and show a leadership role,” said Dybul, the co-director of the Centre for Global Health Practice and Impact at Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington.

Dendys said her organization has lobbied 30 MPs to push Trudeau to increase Canada’s support for the fund.

“What we’re hearing is Canada is going to keep its pledge to the Global Fund flat-lined, which really is a really a retreat in global leadership,” she said.

“Everyone we’ve spoken to has basically said, there’s just a cash crunch.”

Women and children are disproportionately affected by malaria and TB, which creates massive burdens on the health budgets of developing countries. Keeping up funding levels to help eradicate preventable diseases is in the economic interest of every country, especially with Africa’s population predicted to double by 2050, said Dybul.

“If they don’t have health, education and economic opportunity — you’re worried about refugees today? What do you think the world is going look like?” he said.

“It is necessary for the long-term growth of the global economy, Canada’s economy, and also so that we don’t have a continent collapsing.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

A complete list of Alberta’s New Enhanced Emergency Measures

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From the Province of Alberta

New measures at a glance

Unless otherwise stated, the following mandatory restrictions come into effect Nov. 24 and will be in place for at least three weeks.

1. See list of communities under enhanced status (purple areas)
2. See list of affected communities in the Calgary area and the Edmonton area.
Measures All Alberta Enhanced (purple) Areas1 Calgary Area2 Edmonton Area2
No indoor social gatherings in any setting Yes Yes Yes Yes
Outdoor gatherings max of 10 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wedding and funeral services max of 10, no receptions permitted Yes Yes Yes Yes
No festivals or events Yes Yes Yes Yes
Grades 7-12 at-home learning Nov 30-Jan 11 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Grades K-6 at-home learning Dec 18-Jan 11 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Working from home should be considered, where possible Yes Yes Yes Yes
Places of worship at 1/3 normal attendance No Yes Yes Yes
Restricted access to some businesses and services starting Nov. 27 No Yes Yes Yes
Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces No No Yes Yes

Gathering restrictions

  • Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – effective Nov. 24

    • No indoor social gatherings are permitted in any setting (private homes, public spaces or workplaces)
      • Indoor close contacts must be limited to people in the same household
      • People who live alone can have up to the same 2 non-household contacts for the duration of the restriction
      • Work and support group meetings are not social gatherings, but attendance should be limited and public health measures followed
      • This does not apply to service visits from caregivers, health or child care providers
    • Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people and must not have an indoor component
      • Backyard gatherings that require movement in/out of homes are not permitted
      • Attendees should remain distanced at all times and follow public health measures
    • Festivals and events are prohibited (indoors and outdoors)

    Learn more about gatherings.

  • Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – effective Nov. 24

    • Maximum of 10 people for wedding ceremonies or funeral services
      • This includes the officiant, bride/groom and witnesses
      • This does not include staff or organizers who are not considered an invited guest
      • This applies to any facility, including places of worship and funeral homes.
      • This includes services held indoors or outdoors, seated or non-seated.
    • Receptions are not permitted

    This measure will help limit exposure, reduce outbreaks and protect vulnerable attendees.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – effective Nov. 24

    • Maximum of 1/3 normal attendance for places of worship
    • Physical distancing between households must be maintained
    • Mask use is required
    • Online services are encouraged
    • In-person faith group meetings can continue but must maintain physical distancing and public health measures must be followed

    Faith communities are often significant aspects of people’s lives, and include intimate and close contact between members. This measure will help limit exposure at these activities, reducing outbreaks and protecting vulnerable members who attend.

  • Mandatory restriction – Calgary and Edmonton areas – Effective Nov. 24

    • Masks are mandatory in all indoor workplaces, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or an appropriate barrier is in place
      • This applies to all employees, visitors, delivery personnel and contractors
      • This includes all locations where employees are present and masks won’t pose a safety risk
      • This does not change current student mask requirements in schools
  • Working from home should be considered, where possible.

  • Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – Starting Nov. 30

    Grades 7-12 students

    • Move to at-home learning Nov. 30 to Jan. 8, except during winter break*
    • Resume in-person classes Jan. 11
    • Diploma exams are optional for rest of the school year. Students and families can choose to write an exam or receive an exemption for the April, June and August 2021 exams.

    Grades K-6 students (including Early Childhood Services)

    • Continue in-person learning to Dec. 18
    • Move to at-home learning Dec. 18 to Jan. 8, except during winter break*
    • Resume in-person classes Jan. 11

    *Schools have different winter break schedules, check with your school for details.

    Learn more at K-12 learning during COVID-19

Business and service restrictions

Effective Nov. 27, new restrictions will limit the amount of contact between people in the community, while still allowing businesses to offer services. These measures apply to all communities on the enhanced list (purple areas).

Albertans are encouraged to limit in-person visits to retail locations and use curbside pick up, delivery and online services.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Businesses that are closed for in-person service include:

    • Banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, auditoria and concert venues, non-approved/licensed markets, community centres
    • Children’s play places or indoor playgrounds
    • All levels of sport (professional, semi-professional, junior, collegiate/universities and amateur). Exemptions may be considered.

     

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges will be open with restrictions if they follow all public health guidance in place including:

    • Maximum of 6 people from the same immediate household at a table and no movement between tables.
      • People who live alone can meet with up to 2 non-household contacts as long as they’re the same two throughout the duration of these restrictions
    • Only seated eating and drinking is permitted. No other services or entertainment will be allowed, including billiards, games or darts.
    • Liquor can be sold until 10 pm and food-serving establishments must close to in person-dining at 11 pm. Liquor sales apply to casinos, but casinos are not required to close at 11 pm.

    Albertans are encouraged to use take out, delivery, drive-thru and curbside pick-up options.

    Additional inspections will occur to verify that public health measures are being followed. Establishments that are non compliant may face orders and fines.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Most retail businesses may remain open with capacity limited to 25% of the occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code.

    • Retail, including liquor and cannabis
    • Grocery stores
    • Pharmacies
    • Clothing stores
    • Computer and technology stores
    • Hardware
    • Automotive
    • Farmers markets approved by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
    • Unlicensed outdoor seasonal markets

    Some entertainment and event services may remain open with capacity limited to 25% of the occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code.

    • Movie theatres
    • Museums and galleries
    • Libraries
    • Casinos, offering slots only. Table games must be closed at this time.
    • Indoor entertainment centres including amusement parks, water parks, bingo halls and racing centres.
    • Indoor fitness, recreation, sports and physical activity centres, including dance and yoga studios, martial arts, gymnastics and private or public swimming pools.
      • Facilities can be open for individual studio time, training or exercise only.
      • There can be no group fitness, group classes, group training, team practices or games.
      • Instructors can use facility to broadcast virtual fitness classes from, but there can be no group class.

    All public health guidance and physical distancing requirements must be followed.

    Albertans and businesses are encouraged to limit in-person visits and use curbside pick up, delivery and online services instead.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Businesses open by appointment only are not permitted to offer walk-in services. Appointments should be limited to one-on-one services.

    • Personal services such as hair salons and barbershops, esthetics, manicure, pedicure, body waxing and make-up, piercing and tattoo services,
    • Wellness services including acupuncture, massage and reflexology
    • Professional services such as lawyers, mediators, accountants and photographers
    • Private one-on-one lessons (no private group lessons permitted)
    • Hotels, motels, hunting and fishing lodges

    These businesses must follow all current public health guidance for their sector and should consider virtual options where possible.

    Home-based businesses should follow the restrictions for the type of service they provide.

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Alberta

Holiday Mental Health – It’s Okay if it’s not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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The stores are stocking up on red and green everything, the shelves are lined with ornaments and dancing reindeer and you can’t ignore it even if you want to – the holiday season is nearly here. 

For many, Christmas means celebrations, decorations, rum and eggnog and time with family. From sledding and snow days to hanging the lights and putting up the tree, there are lots of things to love about the holiday season.
However, for others, there are lots of reasons why it might not be the most wonderful time of the year, and that’s okay too. 

While the claim that suicide rates spike during the holiday season has been repeatedly misused and ultimately disproven as the “holiday suicide myth” (1), the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon. In the midst of the celebratory season, feelings of anxiety, isolation, depression and grief can be overwhelming, particularly when combined with additional stressors such as strained personal relationships and financial uncertainty. Not everyone is looking forward to Christmas, and in the midst of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many people without employment and unable to travel, the emotional toll of this holiday season promises to be increasingly complex. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Alberta Division released a statement regarding coping with the holidays during these unusual and uncertain times. 

“The pandemic has disrupted many yearly holiday traditions and has increased collective anxieties and social isolation. As we look for alternative ways to spread joy and take part in new ways of celebrating the holidays, Albertans must focus on their mental health during an already busy and often overwhelming season.”

According to the CMHA, these are some simple but useful ways to maintain your mental health during the holidays. 

Focus on what you can control. Like the food you eat, the time you have a shower or the media you consume.  

Anxiety is normal. During times of crisis it is normal to feel increased anxiety. Acknowledge those feelings are valid. 

Limit your consumption of media. Allow yourself time to focus on activities you enjoy instead. Reading, listening to music or meditating are all great ways to de-stress when you are unable to attend regular holiday festivities. 

Remain connected to your body. Exercising regularly, getting outside, eating well and resting will support positive mental health. 

Be open with your support system. Identify supportive people you can connect with if you begin to feel overwhelmed or lonely. 

Reach out for help. If you or a loved one needs help, call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642. 

As the holidays arrive amid the fog of the ongoing global pandemic, remember – it’s okay to feel confused, frightened, and uncertain of the future. You are not alone, and there are always resources available to help you and your loved ones through these complicated times. Be gentle with yourself and others, ask for help if you need it, and above all, be kind. 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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