The Canadian Government must bear the lion’s share of the responsibility

5 Aug 2022
How could this happen in 2022, nearly forty years after we first began working on HIV and AIDS?

In one hour, the International AIDS Conference 2022 will conclude. An event marked by the visa scandal. I do not believe that the responsibility lies exclusively with the Canadian Government but it must take the lion’s share.

It is utterly unforgivable that the host country does not have a system and visas, at least for the delegates, many of whom are scholarship holders and which they financed. The current Government has reacted too little, for some too late....

The International AIDS Society (IAS) should be better suited for the organization of these events. It has been organizing these conferences for decades, this is what it lives on, its bread and butter. A very important role, but it must be done with more aptitude and much better performance and results.

Neither the interlocutors of the host Government, nor the IAS, fully understand what it takes to process a visa. They have a Eurocentric and north-centric outlook: they carry passports that do not need visas, as if there were two privileged worlds with little empathy for people who are victims of consular misunderstandings. And a lot of people seem only to be navel-gazing. So, we guess that little will change for the IAS Conference in Australia next year and in Germany the year after.

Even though the conference was smaller in size (10,000 to 8,000 participants), the Montreal Conference Center vibrated every day with the necessary energy of activists, the thousands of hugs from people not seen in years, the heated debates in meetings and sessions. And protests, of course.

Some of the many scientific, community and political contributions included discussion on: self-testing strategies that will allow us to urgently reduce the number of new infections; the possibility of using slow absorption and long-lasting injections, probably ready for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); and recent efforts  to raise $18 billion for the Global Fund.

Certainly we won't get any money without the resources to fund new tools, prevention and AIDS-related deaths. All this in the midst of COVID-19 and a global financial crisis over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. There are only six weeks left to get all donors to increase their donations to the Seventh Replenishment.

There is much food for thought, for the future. These conferences have not lost the necessary mystique or magic, much of which is provided by civil society and communities. For those who stayed at home against their will, rest assured that we have made your sacrifice visible. This has just begun. Not a step backwards.

PS: Our gratitude to Canadian civil society

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