HIV/AIDS Advocates Protest High Cost of Registration for XV International AIDS Conference
HIV/AIDS advocates in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday protested the high cost of registration for the upcoming XV International AIDS Conference, saying that "thousands of key voices" on HIV/AIDS "would not be heard" because of the fees, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The early registration fee for the conference, which is themed "Access for All," was $800 and standard registration was $900; however, after May 1 the fee rose to $1,000, which comes to $1,250 including Thai tax, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Although the conference fees include access to all conference sessions and copies of related documents and reports, meals and accommodations are not included in the price. Karyn Kaplan of the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group said, "It's access for all except if you're a poor person," adding, "It's one of the most expensive AIDS conferences to date, which is ironic given that this is in a developing country. The reality is that access is still very limited." Nimit Tien-udom, director of Thailand's ACCESS Foundation, said that nongovernmental groups have "tried many times to raise this point in committee meetings. If the registration price is lowered, we can have many more attendees ... but they have not made any changes."
Scholarships, Global Village
The International AIDS Society, one of the conference organizers, has allocated about 2,300 scholarships for the conference, with about half of them going to people from outside Thailand, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. In addition, 3,000 Thai students have been invited to attend the conference at no cost, according to IAS Conference Director Mats Ahnlund. The registration fee is $50 less than the 2002 XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, Ahnlund said, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. He added that IAS is "small and we have to cover our costs. This is a not-for-profit event but we cannot subsidize it all." Kaplan said that advocates could protest the conference by printing false passes and "gather[ing] in large numbers to force their way in," AFP/Yahoo! News reports. She added that although the conference is promoting a "global village" area that is free and open to the public at the conference, which "is hailed as a set-up where the community can gather, ... in reality the important conversations are happening inside" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/29).
Prime Minister's Tour
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday in advance of the conference led ambassadors and representatives of international nongovernmental AIDS groups on a tour of clinics, orphanages and community health projects to show the country's "success in fighting" HIV/AIDS in the North, Thailand's Nation reports. The group included ambassadors from China, India, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Nigeria, Canada and the European Commission's Delegation to Thailand, in addition to representatives from UNICEF, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Population Fund, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. The group visited the Chiang Mai Chiang Dao district and learned about the region's community-based antiretroviral drug treatment program, which is part of the government's effort to provide treatment to HIV-positive people in the country. The delegation also visited a community health project in the Mae Rim district that provides services for 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS (Arthit, Nation, 6/29). Thai Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said that the country's Ministry of Public Health plans to launch a campaign against HIV/AIDS aimed at young adults between the ages of 15 and 25, the Bangkok Post reports. The ministry hopes to reduce the number of new HIV/AIDS cases to less than 19,000 this year from 21,000 last year, according to the Post (Bangkok Post, 6/29).
A new kaisernetwork.org video feature -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, who also is a correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" -- includes interviews with people who are on front lines of efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The video is the fourth in a series of spotlights from kaisernetwork.org on local efforts around the world to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The other features -- which examine HIV/AIDS in Haiti, Brazil and India -- also are available online.
Webcasts and other coverage of the XV International AIDS Conference will be available online at kaisernetwork.org/aids2004. Kaisernetwork.org will serve as the conference's official webcaster.
Additional information on the conference, including online registration, is available at aids2004.org.