International AIDS Conferences Focus More on Politics Than Science, Should Include ‘All Voices,’ Editorial Says
The HIV/AIDS pandemic no longer is "just a medical and scientific problem" but has become "one of the world's biggest political, economic and societal burdens," and subsequently, the biannual international AIDS conferences "have almost become a movement gradually including more and more sectors of society," an editorial in the September edition of the Lancet Infectious Diseases says. However, the editorial asks, "[C]an a single conference really play host to such a diverse set of agendas and expect to get the balance right?" The international AIDS conferences, which began in 1985 in Atlanta as a gathering of scientists, have "shifted" to forums where policy issues and protests by advocates have "grabbed the limelight," and the "good science, or what little there was of it, was overshadowed by politics," the editorial says. Although the "[w]ell-informed and motivated" lobbying by advocates in the past resulted in greater antiretroviral drug access, a "new brand of activism ... rooted in misinformation" that "could be counter-productive to progress" has resulted in influential leaders from wealthy nations being "met with heckling and protest" at every meeting, the editorial says. The "trouble" with some advocates' agendas is that they are focused "too much on the short-term needs of treatment, prevention and care," while long-term goals such as the development of vaccines, microbicides and new drugs "generate the least amount of advocacy," the editorial says. In order to "strik[e] the balance between science and politics" during the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, in 2006, "we need to ensure that all voices are heard at the table," the editorial says, concluding that "if we start to exclude our partners, we risk losing momentum, and not taking advantage of the progress that has truly been made" (Lancet Infectious Diseases, 9/04).
Webcasts and other coverage of the XV International AIDS Conference are available online at kaisernetwork.org/aids2004.