International AIDS Conferences Have Transformed From Small Scientific Meetings to Big Venues for Many Affected by HIV/AIDS, New York Times Reporter Says
The international AIDS conferences have evolved from a "relatively small forum for 2,200 scientists to share their embryonic knowledge" on HIV/AIDS at the first conference in Atlanta in 1985 to "huge arena[s] for many groups ... to share the now huge body of knowledge" on the pandemic, New York Times reporter Lawrence Altman, who has attended all but two of the conferences, writes in a Times column. According to Altman, the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, which begins on Sunday, is scheduled to include more than 24,000 participants, who will deliver about 4,500 reports over six days. In recent years, the conference has been in South Africa and Thailand, in part to give scientists "their first view of the challenges in delivering antiretroviral therapy in developing countries" and to help "doctors in developing countries get up to speed on AIDS," Altman writes. Like past conferences, "noisy protests" are expected at the Toronto conference, "adding to a circus-like atmosphere and making it seem more like a convention and social gathering than a scientific meeting," Altman writes. He adds that Helene Gayle -- president of the International AIDS Society, the primary organizer of the conference -- has "[r]ecogniz[ed] the criticism" that "the quality of the scientific presentations has declined at recent conferences." According to Gayle, organizers have focused on boosting the scientific aspect of the Toronto conference. This year's conference will highlight the theme "Time to Deliver," Altman writes, adding that although researchers "have come far in the 25-year history of AIDS," 20 million people have contracted the disease since the development of combination antiretroviral drugs 10 years ago. "[U]nderscoring that the need to build a system to deliver effective health care is as urgent and essential a need as lowering the cost of antiretroviral drugs," Altman writes (Altman, New York Times, 8/8).
The XVI International AIDS Conference program is available online.
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