Hello- and welcome to this conference report.
The conference formally opened last night, with speeches from, amongst others, Jim Kim, (the head of the world bank), Ban Ki-Moon, (the UN secretary general) and the mayor of Washington. However, despite rampant speculation, there was no sign of Barack Obama or George W Bush, who were both billed to speak, or at least if they were there I couldn’t see them for the swathes of people.
The theme of the speeches was one of optimism. It seemed they were saying that now we know how to stop HIV spreading through treating it, we must now aim for the eradication of transmission. The focus was certainly on treatment-as-prevention, although poverty, stigma and access to condoms were also given some attention. A website: www.2endAIDS.org has been launched to promote the Washington Declaration.
However, many of these scripted speeches repeated the same stuff, and more interesting were the smaller, more human stories presented. We got to hear from Florence, a women living with HIV in Nigeria, and her 13 year old HIV negative daughter, and how they wished that every mother and child had access to the prevention measures that had secured her daughter’s health. There were also some powerful and moving videos of community-based prevention programs from across the globe.
My favourite was the award (The Elizabeth Taylor award) given to two Iranian doctors recently released from prison, the Ayerai brothers, who had been jailed for several years for setting up an HIV, sexual health and drug use clinic in their country; apparently this amounted to treason. Whilst in prison they set about improving the health and wellbeing of other prisoners through needle education and smoking cessation. Remarkable guys. They were presented their award by the actor Sharon Stone, minus ice-pick. The venerable doctors seemed very excited about this. Perhaps they were thinking of the same scene in Basic Instinct that I was.
The conference proper starts this morning, so I’m off to breakfast to flick through the 430 page conference program book and the 100 page program supplement to decide what to attend.