Canadian government under fire for avoiding AIDS 2022 conference | OUTInPerth

The Canadian government is being criticized for failing to process the visas of many health experts hoping to attend AIDS 2022, the 24th International Conference on HIV.

It is the first time in two years that the world’s top health experts have been able to meet in person, and the gathering comes as UNAIDS and the International AIDS Society point out that the world is failing to meet the key goals in the fight against new transmissions, and HIV-related deaths remain common in developing countries.

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima commented on the actions of the Canadian government during her opening address on Friday morning.

In a speech that highlighted his vision of a world that effectively tackles the barriers that prevent HIV drugs from reaching those most in need, Byanyima fired a shot clearly aimed at Justin Trudeau’s government.

The head of the world AIDS organization asked participants to imagine “a world in which people from the ‘global south’ are not denied entry into wealthy countries to contribute their expertise on a pandemic world”. The statement drew a massive round of applause from the attendees.

Shortly before Byanyima took the stage, peaceful protesters broke up the opening ceremony calling for more action to fight HIV in the world’s most deprived communities.

They also had a direct message for the Canadian government and the conference organizers.

“No more AIDS conferences in racist counties, no more!” shouted the demonstrators. “More conferences in countries that criminalize sex work, more conferences in countries that criminalize HIV.”

Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s development minister, was on the list of speakers for the opening of the conference, but organizers announced he had not shown up for the event, withdrawing from the speaking engagement. short term.

Terri Ford, head of global advocacy and policy at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation shared her frustration that many delegates were unable to make it to the event.

“After COVID-19 has upstaged many other pressing global public health issues, it is critical that we maintain focus on HIV/AIDS and other aspects of health equity that affect millions of people around the world,” Ford said. “For example, this conference, which was supposed to bring together the most experienced and passionate HIV/AIDS activists representing the countries most affected by the disease, was not even able to enter the country.

“These defenders fight for our most vulnerable populations and the voiceless. The stark contrast between how people in the North are treated compared to those in the South is unacceptable and significantly undermines the world’s ability to end the “other pandemic” of HIV/AIDS. »

Ahead of the conference, many delegates revealed that they had been denied visas to attend the event, with Canadian officials saying they did not believe delegates would leave the country when the event ended.

Others have expressed frustration that the rejections come after paying high fees for applications via, and often invested in trips to neighboring countries to be able to provide the biometrics officials needed to review their applications.

Even those who managed to get their visas in time complained that Canada unnecessarily held on to their passports for months, preventing them from traveling elsewhere while their applications were considered.

As early as June, the problem was reported to the Trudeau government, which invested millions of dollars in the event, just to stop people from attending.

Ken Monteith, Executive Director of the local HIV/AIDS organization COCQ-SIDA published a scathing letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada.

Monteith told Minister Sean Fraser that his department’s actions would make Canada an “active contributor to the worsening of existing inequalities in global health and international travel.”

The letter was co-signed by 249 organizations and more than 250 individuals working in HIV research, prevention and health care.

Graeme Watson

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