Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights and SHORE Centre (Sexual Health Options, Resources & Education) stand in solidarity with the Ontario Nurses’ Association in expressing deep concern over cancellation of the publicly funded sexual health programs in Haldimand-Norfolk county.
The Haldimand-Norfolk County Health Unit cited the Ontario government’s cuts to health care funding in their decision to cancel sexual health care service provision, and eliminate the positions of Nurse Practitioner and Public Health Nurse positions. The move to end these critical services comes at a time when communities across the country are seeing skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Nine provinces have declared syphilis outbreaks or emergencies, including Nova Scotia just last month. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis rates have increased countrywide, with some provinces like Saskatchewan seeing a leap of 172% in new syphilis infections in 2019 alone.
Sexual health care services, education, and information continue to be under-resourced and stigmatized, particularly in remote and underserved regions, including rural southwest Ontario. These cuts are short-sighted and dangerous – and will reduce access to contraceptive care and sexual health information at a time when it is needed most. Cuts to frontline service workers such as public health nurses will have a direct impact on sexual health outcomes, with a disproportionate impact on the most marginalized communities.
“Cuts to public health services like this will have an immediate and severe impact on access to sexual and reproductive health information and services – particularly in areas where people have to drive hours to get care,” said Sarah Kennell, director of government relations for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
“The clients we serve depend on the life-saving public health programs they receive in their communities,” said Alicia Langill, interim executive director of SHORE Centre, which services Kitchener-Waterloo and nearby regions. “The burden of these cuts will be felt by not-for-profit clinics like SHORE Centre, who have to pick up the slack for services that the government should be providing – and we’ll only be able to serve those who can afford to travel just to access basic health care.”
“The Ontario government has already attacked sexual and reproductive rights through their attempt to rollback sex-ed in our schools,” said Sandeep Prasad, executive director for Action Canada.
“But here’s the reality: the governments of Ontario and Canada are required to deliver comprehensive, quality, and accessible health care in line with human rights standards. Decisions like this one have the potential to set us back decades – and Ontario and Haldimand-Norfolk county officials must take steps to ensure the delivery of sexual and reproductive health care for all people.”
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
613-241-4474 ext 107