The International AIDS Conference, organized by IAS – the International AIDS Society, is the world’s most important gathering for people living with and affected by HIV and all those working to address the HIV epidemic.
The Conference’s participatory approach involves community representatives, researchers and policy makers. Jointly they inform decisions such as host city selection and program design. And of course they create the Global Village and Youth programme.
The Conference Committee drives the strategic planning of all IAS conferences. It is composed of IAS leadership and community representatives (see graphic below). It reviews host city bids and works with the IAS Secretariat to create a shortlist of host cities.
“In recent discussions, much emphasis has been placed on the location of the host city,” Conference Committee member Erika Castellanos of Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) said. “But we also need to consider the safety of marginalized groups as not all locations are equally welcoming to many of us.”
About 70 countries criminalize consensual same-sex activity and 15 criminalize trans expression, which would immediately exclude important key populations from attending a conference.
“Ensuring equitable access is vital but unfortunately there is no single location that makes that possible for everyone equally,” Conference Committee member Glory Alexander of ASHA Foundation said. “That’s why we are offering a hybrid conference and making large investments into some 1,600 scholarships, including with some of the funds provided by Canada.”
Once a host city is selected, the Conference Committee is boosted with the addition of further community representatives, researchers and policy specialists to form the conference’s Organizing Committee. The broad representation ensures that the programme design of the International AIDS Conference is participatory, puts people first and follows the science.
The IAS Conference Committee is responsible for the strategic planning of all IAS conferences taking place over a four-year cycle. Together with the IAS, the Conference Committee reviews the bids and creates a shortlist.
Once the location is confirmed, rotating members including local representatives are added to the Conference Committee, which together constitute the Organizing Committee.
Jessica Whitbread, GNP+ and ICW
Glory Alexander, ASHA Foundation
Erika Castellanos, Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE)
– IAS President and AIDS 2022 International Co-Chair Adeeba Kamarulzaman
Many of our attendees are immunocompromised or work closely with immunocompromised communities. A requirement of the host city is that it will work with us to ensure high health and safety protocols for all delegates, staff and speakers.
The International AIDS Conference is the largest HIV conference in the world. In-person participation requires a venue, accommodation and travel infrastructure large enough to host such an event.
A key selection criteria is that the host city provides a safe environment and equal treatment for people most affected by HIV. HIV disproportionately affects some of the most marginalized people, and finding an environment for such communities to feel safe and express themselves freely is central.
The Organizing Committee must be able to operate independently. It must be empowered to create a conference programme shielded from outside vetting or influencing.
The cost of the venue and logistics and confirmed financial support from the host country must enable a conference budget that ensures sufficient funding for participatory programme planning and scholarships.
Originally, the IAS selected a middle-income country to host AIDS 2022. Unfortunately, the IAS had to pull out of these negotiations as the host government made it a condition that it would vet and thereby influence the conference programme. The Organizing Committee insists on full independence in putting together a programme that puts people first and is guided by the latest scientific evidence.
Following that decision, Montreal was identified to host AIDS 2022.
The IAS, its members and its partners are aware that underlying the difficulty experienced by many attendees of AIDS 2022 to enter Canada lies a broader problem of global inequities and systemic racism that significantly impacts global health. HIV, in particular, has always disproportionally affected the most marginalized.
The IAS will not go back to business as usual after the conference but will draw from the lessons from AIDS 2022 and re-evaluate how we ensure that the International AIDS Conference remains an inclusive event, especially for the communities most affected by HIV.
The International AIDS Conference is perhaps the only global public health conference that provides a significant section of the event – the Global Village and Youth Programme – entirely free of cost. The Global Village and Youth Programme is created from public applications from a diverse range of people. It is a gathering place where communities from around the world meet to share their experiences and learn about HIV, and where the public can witness how science translates into community action.
Learn more here.
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