HIV.” Nearby, the Community & Science Speak Networking Zone echoed the message of the opening session with a presentation called simply “The Cure,” with David Evans, director of research advocacy for Project Inform, and Steven Deeks, M.D., who co-chairs IAS’s International Working Group for its new “Towards an HIV Cure” global scientific strategy. And back toward the Community Dialogue
Space sat the HIV Story Project, a San Fran- cisco–based nonprofit program that had set up a storytelling booth modeled after a classic photo booth. Attendees were invited to step into the win- dowless, soundproofed booth, look into a camera, and share their story of living with HIV/AIDS, which eventually will be posted online. “I wanted to move the quilt concept into interactive media,” said Marc Smolowitz, the project’s executive producer. “People have very powerful experiences inside the booth. They share things. … It speaks a lot to the power of personal storytelling.” It also spoke to the power of AIDS 2012. “This
is the go-to gathering,” Smolowitz said. “If you’re in the space of HIV/AIDS, you have to be here. … People need to come together and share ideas and get things done. This is a chance for us to all meet each other. It’s no small effort to come here, but we’ve learned a ton.”
pstairs, Downstairs” configuration notwithstanding, the International AIDS Conference is all about bringing
together different people from different worlds. It’s part of the show’s DNA, and it makes for an experience that is not easily categorized. What kind of meeting is it, for example, when
you stumble across a few hundred people standing, crouching, and sitting in the middle of a hallway, watching a PowerPoint presentation on a large flat-screen monitor? It was Monday afternoon, and they were the overflow crowd from a session called “Immunopathogenesis and Its Treatment.” There seemed to be as many advocates and aid workers as medical professionals in the crowd, but no one was in a hurry to stop looking at slides with headings like “Ki67 Staining as a Marker for Cel- lular Activation” and “Activation Status in Lymph Node: USA vs. Uganda.” Or how about the Q&A session that followed
“Creative Strategies for Provision of and Increas- ing Access to Services for PLHIV” — that’s “people living with HIV” — on Wednesday morning. First,
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Keith Martin, a physician and former Canadian minister of parliament, asked panelists if they were working on issuing a strong statement about the need to liberalize international drug laws, fund needle-exchange programs, and otherwise provide for at-risk populations. Martin was followed by a man from Detroit who identified himself as a “recovering addict” and a “recovering sex worker,” who wanted to know how the panelists’ countries “embrace” people like him. Those two experiences came close to capturing
the atmosphere of AIDS 2012. It was a medical conference where the amateurs were just as inter- ested in the hard science as the professionals, and also a public forum where anyone could ask the world’s leading experts on HIV/AIDS anything they wanted. It made for a kind of happening in which the format of the meeting merged with its function — and caused the people working behind the scenes to sound a lot like their attendees. “Thirty years into the epidemic — 2011 marked
30 years — people are still dying,” Gilliard said. “And although there have certainly been a lot of advancements, … we don’t want to take the spot- light off that. People are still dying from HIV and AIDS, and so you have to reinvigorate the fight. Thirty years ago, people were talking about HIV and AIDS, and then people thought, oh, you can take a [drug] cocktail and it goes away. “People don’t think that people still have it.
They don’t think that it exists. Hopefully, the mes- sage will come back to the forefront that this is still very real. We are still at the height of the epidemic, and we are just at a point where we can see the end, but it is going to take the work of the commu- nity to continue working with policymakers, and policymakers to continue funding, so that we can continue with scientific advancements.”
. Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene. + ON THE WEB
› For more information about the 19th International AIDS Conference, visit aids2012.org.