Government Officials Worldwide Should Become More Involved in International AIDS Conferences, Opinion Piece Says
"Time To Deliver" -- the theme of last month's XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, which was the "largest ever on AIDS" with 26,000 participants -- in part was a "call for everyone responsible for AIDS work to explain what they had done and not done to achieve the goal of stopping AIDS," New York Times reporter Lawrence Altman writes in a Times opinion piece titled "Bright Spots, Lost Chances on AIDS." Many conference participants said it was a "significant conference oversight" that "no African leader delivered a featured talk, even though Africa is the continent most affected by AIDS," Altman writes, adding that conference organizers "found no African backup speaker" when Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf "canceled her scheduled talk a week before the conference, ... leaving non-Africans to talk about Africa's plight." Conference organizers should have "used imagination similar to that" of the Stephen Lewis Foundation -- which organized a "highly successful" gathering of African and Canadian grandmothers ahead of the conference -- by "inviting some grandmothers to speak in a plenary session" and providing participants with the opportunity to "lear[n] from accounts of their daily lives," Altman writes. "On a positive note," the AIDS conference "tried to bring prevention more in balance with treatment because of the growing recognition that the two efforts are inseparable," Altman says. Former President Clinton and "other government leaders have attended recent conferences, helping to expose scientists and health workers to politics," Altman writes, concluding, "But there have been too few government leaders at too few AIDS conferences. Future conferences ... could benefit if health ministers and other government officials from countries with a spectrum of AIDS problems, from minimal to severe, participated in meaningful discussions" (Altman, New York Times, 9/12).
Kaisernetwork.org served as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006.