Harm Reduction Fund

Preventing transmission of HIV and hepatitis C from sharing drug injection and inhalation equipment

Submission Deadline: Thursday June 6, 2019

Note:  For more information on funded projects already underway, see Harm Reduction Fund: Funded projects.

The new Harm Reduction Fund is investing $7 million annually to support projects across Canada that will help reduce HIV and hepatitis C among people who share injection and inhalation drug-use equipment. HIV and hepatitis C can be spread through the sharing of drug-use equipment, such as needles and pipes.

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How letters of intent are evaluated

Applications will be reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Centre for Grants and Contributions for completeness and eligibility. If the Letter of Intent is screened in it will be reviewed by provincial and territorial officials for alignment with harm reduction policies and strategies in their respective jurisdiction.

Letters of Intent that meet all eligibility criteria will be reviewed by a committee consisting of Public Health Agency of Canada employees, people with lived experience, researchers with an expertise in harm reduction, and external reviewers with expertise in front-line harm reduction program and service delivery. Applications will be evaluated based on the criteria below. Individual Letters of Intent will be compared with other applications received by the deadline and prioritized in relation to the funds available.

Applicants with any outstanding final reporting materials, for a project previously funded by a Public Health Agency of Canada program, will be required to submit those materials before a new application can be considered for funding.

Evaluation criteria

In the Letters of Intent, all proposed projects must reflect the principles of the Harm Reduction Fund and support its objectives.

It is expected that all activities undertaken as part of funded projects will take into consideration the needs of diverse Canadians, including individuals of various cultures, abilities, sexual orientations and gender identities.

The following criteria, outlined in the “Call for Letters of Intent: Guide for Applicants,” will be used to evaluate all eligible Letters of Intent:

  • people who use substances are active participants in project design and implementation;
  • project key activities are clearly described;
  • the project’s expected results are realistic and measurable;
  • the project demonstrates efficient use of resources and value for money;
  • the project is designed to effectively reach the target audience;
  • the project contributes to the Harm Reduction Fund objectives;
  • the application clearly demonstrates the need for and the value-added of the project;
  • the project demonstrates that partners can make meaningful contributions to it; and
  • the applicant has demonstrated the required experience, capacity and governance structure to successfully deliver the proposed project.

Funding decisions

The Public Health Agency of Canada is under no obligation to enter into a funding agreement as a result of this invitation to submit a Letter of Intent.  A successful Letter of Intent is not a commitment on the part of the Public Health Agency of Canada to fund a subsequent full proposal.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is responsible for determining the eligibility of each applicant, its project, and project-related expenses.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reserves the right to:

  • reject any submission received in response to this invitation;
  • accept any submission in whole or in part; and/or
  • cancel and/or re-issue this invitation to submit a Letter of Intent at any time.

Following the review process, all applicants will be notified of the results of the review process by email. Only recommended letters of intent will be invited to submit a full proposal.

Please note that funding decisions made by the Public Health Agency of Canada are final. Unsuccessful applicants are invited to reapply through future solicitations.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will not reimburse an applicant for costs incurred in the preparation and/or submission of a Letter of Intent or a proposal in response to this invitation.

What is harm reduction? Footnote 1

Harm reduction refers to a set of practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with substance use. Harm reduction:

  • is about meeting people where they are at and supporting them to work towards their goals;
  • aims to decrease adverse health, social and economic outcomes – such as death, disease and injury – that may result from an individual’s actions;
  • represents policies, strategies, services and practices, which aim to assist people to live safer and healthier lives;
  • acknowledges that each person is different, has different goals and requires different supports and strategies;
  • enhances the ability of people who use substances to have increased control over themselves, their families, and their communities; and
  • is not focused on the reduction of substance use and/or abstinence as necessary to receive respect, compassion or services.

Harm Reduction Fund

The Harm Reduction Fund is administered by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Harm reduction is a pillar of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy and is integral to Canada’s effort to reduce the impact of HIV and hepatitis C on the health of Canadians.

The Harm Reduction Fund prioritizes front-line, community-based projects that aim to reduce HIV and hepatitis C infections among individuals who share drug-use equipment. Funding of approximately two years is intended to focus on communities where there is evidence of high rates of substance use, HIV and hepatitis C related to the sharing of injection and inhalation drug-use equipment.

Communities experiencing high rates of injection and related drug-use and HIV and hepatitis C are considered a priority, where federal investments can complement provincial or territorial investments. Areas of priority will be identified based on the best available local/regional evidence, including:

  • HIV/hepatitis C rate per 100,000 population;
  • actual number of reported HIV/hepatitis C cases attributed to injection drug-use;
  • rates of drug-use according to Statistics Canada and/or the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions; and
  • other acceptable sources of data (local data, evaluation findings).

As the Harm Reduction Fund will work to address areas of immediate priority, there is no provincial and territorial allocation of funding. Specific sub-populations such as Indigenous peoples or gay men who share drug-use equipment will be considered eligible.


The goal of the Harm Reduction Fund is to reduce HIV and hepatitis C infection experienced by people who share drug use equipment (injection and inhalation)

While we understand that there are many health issues facing people who use drugs, the Harm Reduction Fund focuses on the prevention and control of infectious diseases. That is not to say that harm reduction programs cannot include a range of services – but the primary focus of projects eligible for funding must be to prevent the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C from the sharing of injection drug and inhalation equipment.


The objectives of the Harm Reduction Fund are to:

  • strengthen the knowledge of factors associated with increased vulnerability to HIV and hepatitis C among people who share drug-use equipment;
  • strengthen the skills, competencies, and abilities of people who use substances and share drug-use equipment to prevent HIV and hepatitis C infections;
  • reduce stigma and discrimination toward mental health, substance use, and people who share drug-use equipment; and,
  • reduce risk-taking behaviour among people who use substances and share drug-use equipment (injection and inhalation equipment).


Several key principles form the basis for implementing projects under the Harm Reduction Fund.

  • Involvement of people who use, or have used, drugs: harm reduction initiatives need to be designed and delivered to serve diverse cultures, unique community needs, and the varying contexts in which people that use substances access services and support.
  • Stigma reduction: the effectiveness of harm reduction depends on attention to eliminating stigma so that people who use substances encounter judgment-free, supportive health and service providers.
  • Mental health promotion: integrating physical and mental health facilitates a person-centered approach to programs.
  • Sex and gender-based analysis: considering the intersecting identity factors of diverse groups of women, men and gender-diverse people promotes inclusivity in developing, delivering and evaluating initiatives.
  • Evidence-based: all interventions are based on the best available evidence and include evaluations to quantify the impact on well-defined outcomes.
  • Complementarity: building on existing effective programs and investments facilitates sustainable and integrated action.

Who can apply

The following Canadian groups and institutions are eligible to receive project funding:

  • not-for-profit, registered as incorporated, voluntary organizations or corporations; or
  • not-for-profit unincorporated organizations, societies or coalitions; or
  • provincial and territorial health providers including Regional Health Authorities and local Public Health Services; or
  • post-secondary institutions seeking to undertake community-based programming, but not research.

In the cover letter, applicantsFootnote 2 must demonstrate a minimum of 2 years of experience addressing HIV or hepatitis C prevention and control, using a harm reduction approach, among people who use shared drug-use equipment; in a manner that actively and meaningfully engages those individuals.

Eligible activities

Eligible activities include:

  1. Front-line prevention activities:
    • Development and/or dissemination of educational resources (postcards, pamphlets, etc.) about safer drug-use for people who share drug-use equipment.
    • Peer outreach activities that can encourage people who use drugs to access harm reduction facilities/services.
    • Peer-led activities that assist people who use drugs with the scheduling of appointments, referrals, providing reminders, and intervening if a person has difficulty accessing care on an ongoing basis, etc.
  2. Capacity-building of individuals, providers, and strengthening of systems:
    • Training to support the meaningful engagement of people who use drugs and their networks, to ensure full participation in project planning, implementation, and evaluation.
    • Development of professional and training guidelines for health and other care providers.
    • Development, evaluation, and dissemination of best practice models.
  3. Scaling up of effective programs or interventions:
    • Preference may be given to projects that complement provincial or territorial investments and have a high potential for scaling up to increase reach and impact.  Selection of these interventions will be based on strong evaluation evidence.


Organizations can apply for a maximum of two years of funding. Projects will be funded for a maximum of $125,000 per year.

Organizations currently receiving funding under the Harm Reduction Fund are eligible to apply under this call. If you are applying to extend funding to an existing intervention, you will be required to demonstrate the impact of your efforts based on evaluation results and data collected.

The type of funding provided is a Contribution Agreement. A Contribution Agreement is a legal agreement to provide funding in instalments each fiscal year (for a specified term) to an organization for agreed upon activities, as described in an approved funding proposal. The organization is subject to financial and activity monitoring by the Agency and is required to submit performance reporting and undertake an evaluation.


The first two solicitations for funding under the Harm Reduction Fund are complete. A targeted Call for Proposals was issued in 2017 to complement provincial and territorial efforts. More than two dozen projects were selected to receive funding from 2018 until 2020. The open and competitive solicitation, launched in 2018, resulted in 29 additional projects being selected for funding.

Deadline for submissions

The deadline to submit a Letter of Intent to the Harm Reduction Fund is Thursday June 6, 2019.

For more information on the Harm Reduction Fund, or to obtain copies of the application documents, please contact the Centre for Grants and Contributions, Public Health Agency of Canada: phac.cgc.solicitations-csc.aspc@canada.ca

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