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After 22-year absence, International AIDS Conference to return to U.S.

By David Brown
The every-other-year International AIDS Conference will return to the United States in 2012 for the first time in 22 years now that America's restrictions on visits by foreigners with HIV infection is set to be lifted.

The six-day meeting, which in recent years has drawn about 25,000 people, will be held in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. The International AIDS Society made the decision, which was announced today at a White House event on the eve of World AIDS Day.

"We are absolutely delighted," Robin Gorna, the society's executive director, said of Congress's repeal of travel restrictions for HIV-positive foreigners, which will take effect January 4. "It has been a matter of great distress to many of us that we have not been able to hold the conference in the United States because of discriminatory laws."

The first AIDS conference was held in Atlanta in 1985. The conference was held in Washington in 1987 and San Francisco in 1990. The 1992 conference, however, was moved from Boston to Amsterdam in protest of a law that put infection with the AIDS virus on the country's "travel-exclusion" list.

Three years ago, President Bush initiated a process to allow 60-day visas for infected people. However, that did not satisfy the AIDS society's call for a total lifting of restrictions.
Countries still limiting entry of HIV-infected people include China, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Sudan, Yemen, Equatorial Guinea, Papua New Guinea, and Namibia, said Ron MacInnis, a senior advisor with the International AIDS Society.

"We strongly urge them to follow the U. S. lead," Gorna said.

The organizers of the AIDS conference do not ask attendees about their health status. About one-third of people attending recent meetings have been from communities affected by HIV, and Gorna speculated that "a couple of thousand, at least" are infected with the virus.

Originally held every year, the AIDS conference went to a biennial schedule after the 1996 meeting, in Yokohama, Japan. The next one will be in Vienna in 2010.

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 30, 2009; 5:18 PM ET
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Comments

Actually, Russia has the highest HIV infection rate of any nation in the world. Still, I applaud the lifting of restrictions, but also acknowledge that the ban must have prevented "some" infections.

If you are HIV+, you cannot pass the infection in a nation that bans you from entering it, right?

Posted by: RealTexan1 | December 3, 2009 2:09 AM | Report abuse

I agree with that, kogejoe.

In fact the U.S. has the highest AIDS rate of any industralized country in the world. Also in at least 7 African countries circumcised males have higher AIDS rates than uncircumcised males. So either the claim that circumcision reduces HIV risk is wrong, or reality is wrong.

Posted by: Steven61 | December 1, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

GOOD! Maybe we can talk about REAL HIV prevention methods instead of dickin' around with circumcision.

We are in a country that has both a high circumcision rate (80% according to Edgar Schoen), and a high HIV transmission rate, if not THEE HIGHEST.

I hope this gets addressed at the conference instead of beating around the bush with quack organizations like Operation Abraham, WHO and the CDC who are actually trying to push circumcision as an HIV preventative method. America is PROOF that this does not work.

I hope at this meeting it's just the facts; no circumcision agenda PLEASE.

Posted by: kogejoe | November 30, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

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