by Rex Wockner
A new report charges that the biennial International AIDS Conference, the premier gathering for people working in the HIV field, shortchanges groups most likely to become infected with HIV, including gay men, transgender people, sex workers and drug users.
An “audit” of conference programming, conducted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV, analyzed last year’s gathering in Vienna and found that the percentage of sessions exclusively focused on such groups was 2.6 percent for men who have sex with men, 1.1 percent for transgender people, 3 percent for sex workers and 4.5 percent for drug users.
“While the International AIDS Society turns a blind eye, HIV rates among these populations continue to climb around the world,” said the forum’s executive officer, Dr. George Ayala. “The IAC is the world’s most important opportunity for international exchange and collaboration on HIV and AIDS. Such abysmal representation of most-at-risk groups only serves to reinforce the invisibility, discrimination and disregard that drive the epidemic among these communities.”
The report recommends that conference organizers ensure a transparent process for reviewing abstracts and designing programming, increase their support of authors developing abstracts focused on key populations, and broaden representation on the committees that develop conference programming.
“It is incumbent upon the organizers to ensure that the IAC becomes a vehicle for change, shifting the global landscape so that funding, research and programs are directed to those who need them most. Right now it’s part of the problem,” Ayala said.