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.
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November 30, 2009; 5:18 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency , Health Care
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