Ottawa delays issuing visas for AIDS conference in Montreal | AIDS: on the trail of a pandemic

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Ottawa delays issuing visas for AIDS conference in Montreal | Sida : sur les traces of a pandemic

Ottawa acknowledges incurring longer delays than usual and says it is giving priority to visa applications for the conference.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, Director of Chronic Viral Disease Services at McGill University in Montreal, at the 28th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research in Saskatoon , in 2019 (Archives).

Just over two weeks away from the AIDS 2022 conference in Montreal, some 600 delegates from Asia, Africa and Latin America are still waiting for the Canadian government to issue them visas.

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Scheduled for July 29 to August 2, the conference will host approximately 8,000 attendees. Among those who are uncertain about coming to the country, a number are from Africa, as Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy explained to Tout un matin on ICI Premiere, Tuesday.

The continent that needs visas the most to come to Canada is Africa, described this professor from the Department of Medicine at McGill University, which co-chairs the conference.

Dr Routy explains that visas are given by embassies in each country and that a lack of staff is believed to be the cause of delays. A few dozen other delegates, moreover, have been refused a visa.

Of course, participants will be able to participate in virtual mode at the conference. But what is serious, the heart of the problem, is that it is in Africa that there are the most cases of HIV-AIDS in the world, continued Dr Routy and c sure we need to work with them, to have their ideas, to understand the problems.

The number of people living with HIV was estimated at the end of 2020 at nearly 38 million. Of that number, more than two-thirds (or 25 million) live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In hopes of expediting visa issuance, the The conference organization, along with 250 organizations from around the world, wrote to Canadian Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in late June. For the moment, there have been few changes, laments Dr. Routy.

The Government of Canada has provided $4 million for this event. The organizing committee of the conference also awards 1,200 scholarships to foreign participants, mainly for those in developing countries. Dr. Routy estimates that around 300 scholarship holders are awaiting visas.

“We are stuck: [among] those who benefit from these scholarships , a certain number will not be able to come to Montreal. »

— Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy

In a written statement Tuesday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said it is prioritizing visa processing for delegates attending the 24th Annual International AIDS Conference.

The ministry adds that it has taken all possible measures to speed up the processing of requests and facilitate travel for this event.

However, he admits to experiencing longer than usual processing times for visitor visa applications.

On the AIDS 2022 website, the organizing committee explains why they chose Montreal: the host city must be able to provide high standards of health and safety, as many of the participants are immunosuppressed or work closely with people who are.

In addition, the organizing committee works closely with the host city to ensure that various key groups are treated equally and safely: the LGBTQ± community, people living with the acquired immunodeficiency virus, workers in the sex and injection drug users.

In the global fight against the HIV-AIDS pandemic, Canada is a recognized leader, says- on the website.

On Tuesday, Dr Routy reiterated the importance of maintaining international remittances to Africa to maintain coverage of antiretroviral drugs . Because, unlike COVID-19, HIV infection and disease [caused by HIV] are lifelong, so people have to be treated for life, he says.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV remains a major public health problem worldwide with more than 36 million deaths to date.

With information from Marie-Michèle Bourassa and Marie-Isabelle Rochon

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