It was announced last week that the AIDS Bureau - not its official title but the one most commonly used - has a new head. It’s Joanne Lush.
This is good news. Joanne steps up to the position previously held by Frank MvGee, who recently retired. (We reported on that here.) Joanne is no stranger to much of this work, having worked at the Bureau since 2003. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of what was then called Peterborough AIDS Resource Network (PARN). I was chair of PARN’s board of directors at that time. Her management and administrative skills were impeccable and she was well liked by staff, clients and I think the agency’s community partners.
The official announcement from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care says this; ”I am pleased to announce that Joanne Lush is the successful candidate for the Manager, AIDS and Hepatitis C Programs, Provincial Programs Branch (PPB). Joanne brings to the position specialized knowledge of AIDS and Hepatitis C programs in Ontario, and has worked in the unit since 2003 to expand prevention, education, harm reduction and support services for populations living with and at risk of HIV and hepatitis She has been actively involved in the development of the HIV/AIDS Strategy to 2026 for Ontario, supporting PPB’s participation with the Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose and the ongoing development of the Ontario Naloxone Program. Joanne brings to the role years of experience in the sector, including as an Executive Director of a community-based AIDS service organization, and has a long term commitment to stakeholder engagement with a particular focus on ensuring people with HIV and hepatitis C have a voice in the policies and programs that affect their lives.”
The move comes at a challenging time for Ontario. Numbers of new infections have risen in the province in the last three years, bucking the trend in many other jurisdictions. But new approaches and prevention strategies like PrEP and an increased focus on treatment as prevention, ramped up testing and addressing gaps in the treatment cascade could well reverse that trend.
In any event, Joanne steps up well suited to addressing those challenges. At the same time, with the perceived “normalization” of HIV everywhere there are almost inevitable pressures on funding HIV down the road. In other words there are challenging times ahead
PositiveLite.com shares the view that this change in leadership is timely. More importantly, Joanne is the right person for the job. It will be a popular move.
Congratulations, Joanne, from the entire PositiveLite.com team!