n Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine - 'Time to deliver' - the XVI World AIDS Conference, Toronto, Canada - : conference report

Volume 2006, Issue 25
  • ISSN : 1608-9693
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6751



The World AIDS Conference is an event that one should experience at least once, in order to appreciate the way that the world has truly become a global village. The week of 13 -18 August 2006 saw over 20 000 delegates and 5 000 volunteers congregate at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, to network and discuss issues that it was hoped would bring the scourge of HIV / AIDS to an end. One had so many emotions each and every day, ranging from hope and optimism, excitement and exhilaration, to despair, despondency and even disgust. By the end of the conference one felt overwhelmed by fatigue, yet still eager to get home and get on with the job at hand. That job is stopping the epidemic of HIV. The relentless loss of lives and breakdown of society have been so devastating, especially in developing countries, that urgent calls for innovative ways of thinking and acting seem to have been the main theme of most of the sessions. <br>The key message throughout the conference was that the time to deliver on the promises by world leaders, the United Nations General Assembly and local politicians in their various constituencies was fast running out. The upward trend in prevalence of HIV in some areas was a sign that prevention of new infections was not keeping up with efforts to treat with ARV. The value and role of lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) medications can not be underplayed. Indeed, their role in prevention was highlighted on numerous occasions throughout the conference. <br>An account of some of the highlights during the week follows. Most significant is the fact that focus must remain on prevention of new infections. The plight of women and children, especially in developing countries, is opening up new areas of practice in many fields, such as education, business and health services. The crucial role of all individuals in the world makes it mandatory to adopt a way of thinking that crosses all barriers, in much the same way that HIV knows no barriers. <br>The opening ceremony on Sunday night was spectacular, remembered most by the impressive presentation by Bill and Melinda Gates (of Microsoft fame). The stage was set for the rest of the week. Prevention of new infections and empowering of women to prevent themselves becoming infected was the main message, culminating in a pledge from the Gates Foundation of $500 million for research into microbicides and other technologies that could lead to reduction in the spread of the epidemic.

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