the District of Columbia has many resources and is a beautiful tourism destination,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said during the opening session, “it is also a city where HIV/AIDS has had a profound impact on the health of our citizens.” In a few different ways, the selection of Wash-
ington, D.C., felt like things were coming full circle. Before signing on with the local secretariat for AIDS 2012, Gilliard was director of sales for Destination DC, where she worked on the bid that brought the show to Washington. (See “‘I Have Been Forever Changed by This,’” at right.) “It wasn’t until the entry ban was lifted that we knew the U.S. could actually be a contender for this meeting,” she said. “Once we knew the U.S. was a contender, that is when we put a full-court press on to bring it to D.C. So for me, it is very personal, because I have seen it from a bid all the way through.” Likewise, in an interview a few weeks before
the conference, Gregory O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC, which operates Walter E. Washington, was very aware of what AIDS 2012 meant for its host destination — at every level. “The other thing we’re mindful of is, not only is this the first time [in decades] for Washington, D.C., [which hosted the conference in 1987,] but for the United States to host this,” O’Dell said. “We’re representing the country as well, and it’s impor- tant to this organization.” But what made AIDS 2012 truly historic had
everything to do with its mission, which is to serve as “the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV, and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic.” Ending the pandemic. This year, speaker after speaker talked about the viability of that very thing — preventing transmis- sion, developing a vaccine, finding a cure. Scien- tists and activists alike are convinced that what seemed like a miracle 30 years ago is now within reach. “It is my profound hope,” IAS President and AIDS 2012 International Chair Elly Katabira, M.D., a professor of medicine at Uganda’s Mak- erere University College of Health Sciences, said during the opening session, “that this conference will send us on a path toward ending the epidemic and turning the tide.” The pitch of this recurring message of hope
varied depending on who was speaking at the opening session. A few minutes after Katabira’s remarks, Annah Sango took the stage. She was 24 and from Zimbabwe, and a member of the
54 PCMA CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2012
Building Wide AIDS 2012 sprawled throughout the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — from the bustling main lobby to the 24-hour media center to meeting rooms draped with segments of the AIDS quilt.