Restructured 14th International AIDS Conference Will Include Greater Emphasis on Prevention, Implementation and Policy
The 14th International AIDS Conference, which will take place July 7-12 in Barcelona, Spain, will be restructured to include a greater emphasis on prevention, implementation and policy as part of an "effort to close what [organizers] feel is a serious gap between AIDS scientists and people working on the ground," the Lancet reports. Previous sessions of the biannual conference have placed a "heavy emphasis on biomedical research" because of the relative newness of the disease and because "little was known about the causal virus," conference co-chair Jordi Casabona, director of the Center for Epidemiological HIV/AIDS Studies at the Catalan Health Department in Barcelona, said. However, it has become "increasingly clear" that a biomedical approach alone will not defeat HIV/AIDS and that "effective policies and programs that promote science-based prevention and provide affordable access to effective treatments" are also needed.
The New Conference Model
This year's conference will be divided into two main components: a "science" and an "action" component, with "bridging sessions" to bring scientists and policymakers together on certain issues. The conference will also feature three new tracks. "Prevention Science" will be part of the science component and feature workshops on vaccine and microbicide development and behavioral prevention work. Casabona noted that many researchers erroneously thought that prevention research was "less scientific than clinical studies" and prevention papers had been "scattered" around previous meetings as a result. The other two tracks -- "Interventions and Program Implementation," which will focus on how to "design, implement and sustain" effective HIV/AIDS programs, and "Advocacy and Policy," which will concentrate on how to create a "political, social and cultural climate that will help people fighting HIV/AIDS succeed" -- will be housed under the action component. The interventions and programs track will include peer-reviewed abstracts, group discussions and speaker sessions, while the advocacy and policy track will focus on ways to mobilize resources, how to deal with trade and intellectual property rights and how to "empower marginalized groups" such as sex workers, refugees and sexual minorities. The bridging sessions will blend participants from all of the tracks, combining the "scientific rigor" of the conference with a "multisectoral approach," Casabona said, adding that "as a public health problem, the fight against AIDS needs both of them" (McCarthy, Lancet, 1/5).