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are a thousand people getting together, unfurling a 30-foot banner, and chanting, and you give them their 10-minute say and they’re done. They dis- perse and they go to the next session.” Gilliard also found that, for such a global show,


the AIDS conference has deep local roots — reach- ing out to nonprofit, civic, educational, and gov- ernment organizations in its host city. “I didn’t come from working in HIV and AIDS, I came from a convention background,” Gilliard said. “My experience coming to the table was, I knew how to work with local municipalities and I knew how to build a convention. But then add the community part to it and it has been just incredible to see their response and their impact on the conference and on the program.” The city itself reciprocated that level of atten-


tion and interest, hanging banners from light posts and putting signage on buses all around the city. And in March 2011, Mayor Gray formed a Mayor’s Host Committee just for AIDS 2012 whose mem- bers included former Mayor Sharon Pratt and Des- tination DC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson. Gilliard said: “It is the first time I have ever known of D.C. administration having a host committee dedicated to a conference.”


A


n hour and a half before AIDS 2012 offi- cially opened on Sunday, July 22, there was a sense of pent-up demand in the


lobby of Walter E. Washington. At 5:30 p.m., thou- sands of attendees queued up by the main stair- case and escalators, waiting to proceed upstairs to Session Room 1. Once the velvet ropes dropped, volunteers in bright yellow shirts began scanning badges, and it wasn’t long before the line was mov- ing onward and upward. The conference assumed its unique personality


almost immediately. At the top of the escalators, in the soaring foyer outside the AIDS 2012 exhibit hall, there was a low black stage in the process of being set for UNAIDS’s CONDOMIZE! campaign, featuring dozens of inflated male and female con- doms of every size and color. Around the corner, in the hallway leading to Session Room 1, several pieces from MAKE ART/STOP AIDS were on dis- play, including Orphan Tower, a structure made of 634 beaded-cloth dolls representing the 634 young children orphaned by AIDS in the rural South African village of Dannhauser; and Keiskamma After Guernica, a tapestry that uses Pablo Picasso’s famous Guernica painting as inspiration to show


64 PCMA CONVENE SEPTEMBER 2012


“the devastation caused by HIV and AIDS among the citizens of Hamburg,” another village in South Africa, where the Keiskamma River empties into the Indian Ocean. Just past MAKE ART/STOP AIDS, three trim


men in white T-shirts from AIDES, a French HIV/ AIDS organization, were wearing Barack Obama masks and handing out flyers that said: “Politi- cians have the power to stop AIDS. It’s a matter of funding and political will. By making prevention and treatment widely available, we can wipe out the epidemic.” The opening session was scheduled to begin at


7 p.m., but by 6:30, Session Room 1 — set for 7,000 people, with squares from the AIDS quilt draped along the walls — was topped out, and attendees were being directed to overflow viewing areas in several other rooms. It was a bewildering intro- duction to the event, a carnival of science and culture and sex and politics and people, so many people, who cared enough to spend their Sunday night at the International AIDS Conference. The next afternoon, the exhibit hall offered


a similar pageant, humanitarian and business endeavors jumbled together in a solid, built-out environment. In this pop-up city of industry, big- box exhibitors loomed large at the entrance and paraded down the center of the show floor, with pharmaceutical and medical companies like Alere and Bristol-Myers Squibb and BD and Mylan giv- ing way to equally formidable booths from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and UNAIDS. They were surrounded by a dense grid of smaller-scale exhibitions, from the American Fertility Associa- tion and the Red Ribbon International Film Festi- val to the Papua Provincial AIDS Commission and the 11th International Congress on Drug Therapy in HIV Infection. “This is one of the larger shows we’ve done as


far as requirements for graphics,” said Tim McGill, CEO of Hargrove, AIDS 2012’s general services contractor. “There’s in the neighborhood of 20,000-plus square feet of graphics generated by us just for the areas that we’re involved in. There was over three miles of hardwall, which is unusual here in the United States. That’s more typical in Europe and Asia. It’s definitely an international- driven event, so it has the look and feel of the international scene — very little pipe and drape. All of the exhibit area is hardwall. All of the meet- ing rooms are done in hardwall rather than pipe and drape.”


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