Until recently, having the conference in Washington, D.C., was not an option. AIDS 2012 was made possible in October 2009 by President Obama’s reversal of decades-old restrictions on HIV/AIDS travelers — a move that allowed HIV-positive activists and researchers from abroad to attend.
“[The conference] will also shine a light on HIV/AIDS as an issue in the United States,” Jain said. “There’s a kind of AIDS fatigue [in the U.S.], and having the conference back in Washington, D.C., is a big step.”
AIDS 2012 features an impressive list of prominent speakers, including former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as philanthropist and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and entertainers Elton John and Whoopi Goldberg.
And, while the conference will bring together prominent voices in the AIDS world, including scientists, policymakers, advocates and more, connecting these leaders to the HIV/AIDS community is key.
The conference features a 190,000-square-foot park called the Global Village, which is free to the public and offers cultural presentations, wellness workshops and more.
“One thing that makes this conference really unique is that it brings together communities, policymakers, leaders from science to chart the path for the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” Jain said. “[The conference] has real, substantive connections to the community.”
Leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDs suggest that ingenuity and visibility may be key to combating the epidemic, and this year’s International AIDS Conference will highlight the initiatives and increase the awareness necessary to make the unrelenting epidemic history.
“We have to keep our finger on the pulse,” Nipper said, “and continue to find innovative ways to prevent exposure to HIV.”
Joshua R. Weaver is The Root‘s editorial assistant.