Scientists and social activists must work together to successfully battle the worldwide AIDS epidemic, says Joep Lange, cochairman of the upcoming 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. To promote such cooperation this year's meeting will for the first time have a program that integrates all groups in the HIV fight, Lange says of the July 11-16 conference. It is expected to draw 15,000 attendees. The conference's scientific program, which this year will include more than 400 presentations on topics like new drugs, prevention strategies, and trends in HIV's spread, has traditionally been most prominent. But this year, organizations sidelined at previous conferences--women's groups, gay rights groups, faith-based groups, youth organizations, and drug users groups--will be included in formal sessions as part of a community program.
"As scientists, our job does not end with the discovery of new treatments or more effective HIV prevention methods," say conference organizers. "The devastation caused by this pandemic demands that scientists work with communities affected by HIV/AIDS and leaders from both the public and private sectors to ensure that such breakthroughs are available to all."
Numerous formal and informal meetings will address controversial issues such as the sexuality of HIV-infected people and how international trade rules can limit the distribution of anti-HIV drugs, says Don de Gagne, co-organizer of the community program. Research featuring the quest for newer, more effective drugs--including vaccines and microbicide gels--will be a major focus of the conference. (AP)