It was a break from tradition. The Canadian AIDS Society (CAS) had hoped to have their annual Forum and AGM in Vancouver, B.C.. But funding issues have curtailed those plans.
The forum for people living with HIV will instead be held in Regina, Saskatchewan June 7 and 8. PositiveLite.com has learned that the AGM, which usually piggybacks on to the forum, will instead be conducted by way of online webinar at a date to be confirmed. That sounds like an unusual move and it’s a first for CAS, but CAS ED Gary Lacasse pointed out that CTAC conducted their annual general meeting in a similar format last year.
The two back-to-back CAS events used to be funded by a mix of Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and big pharma dollars. Now the Forum is funded entirely by PHAC. PHAC won't fund governance so CAS had reached out to big pharma for private funding for the AGM so that it could be tacked on to the forum as usual. That move was unsuccessful, hence the new online format slated for the AGM.
Lacasse explained that the paring down of the forum and AGM arrangements was a casualty of the delayed timing of PHAC’s funding commitment and the resulting need to back off from a more expensive conference in Vancouver. With the challenges currently facing Saskatchewan and its own HIV epidemic, Regina was decided upon as a worthy – and cheaper – contender for the forum location.
It's becoming increasingly clear that funding challenges are changing our landscape. Large scale gatherings of the HIV community and those who work in it are clearly now in jeopardy as both PHAC and big pharma cut back on their commitments to fund such events.
The Forum for people living with HIV remains. 60 community scholarships to attend the two-day forum will be awarded this year, up from last year, selected from a record 120-plus applicants from across Canada, including many who are not affiliated with any particular AIDS Service Organization or CAS member agency.
Lacasse wants the Forum to help scope where CAS goes in the future with a particular emphasis on the GIPA principles, work committed to in their transitional funding application. Lacasse says the selection process is looking for a diverse representation of the populations affected by HIV. Successful applicants will be notified by May 10.