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News From the AIDS Conference: A California Pitch

The Post's Ceci Connolly is covering the 17th International AIDS Conference, which is taking place in Mexico City through August 8. She's going to be sending regular updates from the summit to The Checkup; I'll be posting them as they come. Here's her first note:

Now that Congress has lifted a travel ban on people infected with HIV, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) wants the United States to host the International AIDS Conference. And not just anywhere in the states, but in her district.

Shortly after arriving in Mexico City on Sunday for the 17th annual AIDS summit, Lee said in an interview that she'll be networking with conference organizers to bring the gathering to the California Bay Area.

"Whatever year is not scheduled yet would be a great year for us to have it," she said, "especially if we have an Obama administration."

Last week, President Bush signed legislation that would dedicate $39 billion over the next five years to AIDS prevention and treatment internationally. The bill also rescinds a restriction that had been in place since 1992 requiring anyone with HIV to receive a waiver before entering the U.S.

Lee, one of the few members of Congress to attend several AIDS conferences, hopes to draw attention to the AIDS epidemic in black America. In parts of the United States, such as the District of Columbia and Alameda County, where her district is located, the crisis approaches the levels of sub-Saharan Africa. But rarely, she said, does it receive the same level of attention or investment.

This year's biennial conference, hosted by the International AIDS Society, is the first to be held in Latin America.

The idea of luring 23,000 scientists, activists and policymakers to the Bay Area may sound awfully ambitious. But Lee has a track record: a few years ago, she convinced Bono to visit her home turf for a firsthand look at AIDS in America.

Vienna has already locked in the 2010 convention, so Lee will have to set her sights on 2012.

UPDATE: Starting at noon tomorrow, we'll be turning off comments on this blog for about 24 hours to allow for some sorely needed software upgrades and other maintenance.

The Checkup welcomes and values your comments; we look forward to reading them again once the upgrade is complete.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 4, 2008; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  AIDS  
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