Posted: Jun 17, 2022 6:10 PM ET

Jacob Serebrin, Mia Rabson

Hundreds of delegates from Asia, Africa and Latin America scheduled to attend a major AIDS conference in Montreal next month are in limbo because Ottawa has not issued them visas, organizers say, while dozens of others have seen their applications rejected.

Those who have either been denied visas or have not received a response from the Canadian government include researchers scheduled to present their work and delegates who received scholarships to attend the conference.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, a professor of medicine at McGill University and local co-chair of the International AIDS Conference, said in an interview Friday that 1,200 people from developing countries have received scholarships to attend the conference and at least 400 are still waiting for visas.

He said it's those 1,200 people who benefit the most from the opportunity to exchange with other conference attendees. If a significant percentage of them can't come "it will be a catastrophe for the spirit of the conference, for the image of Canada and the federal government,'' he said.

Routy said the International AIDS Society wrote to the Canadian government Thursday in an effort to accelerate the visa approval process, adding that if delegates don't have their visas approved in the next two weeks, many may not be able to book flights and find accommodation before the conference starts July 29.

Ironically, he said, much of the funding to bring scholarship recipients to the conference came from the federal government, which gave the conference $3 million.

Jonathan Ssemanda, a PhD student at Makerere University in Uganda who is scheduled to present his research on improving adhesion to antiretroviral medication at the conference, said he applied for a visa more than two months ago. He was told it would take 30 business days to process, but he still has not received a response. ...