More than 30,000 Expected to Converge upon the Nation's Capital
An international conference that focuses on fighting one the deadliest diseases known to mankind will take place next month in the District and will feature such prominent speakers as a former president of the United States as well as scholars and activists throughout the world.
The XIX International AIDS Conference [AIDS 2012] will meet in the District from July 22-27, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest. Former President Bill Clinton, philanthropist Bill Gates and internationally renowned singer Sir Elton John will be among the participants at the conference that's expected to draw 25,000-40,000 to the District.
"We are delighted to welcome the world's leading AIDS scientists to AIDS 2012, and to have secured these high-level keynote speakers at this critical time in the global response to HIV," said Elly Katabira, international chair of AIDS 2012 and president of the International AIDS Society. "Thanks to these scientific advances, for the first time we have a real opportunity to make a major dent in the epidemic."
This will be the first time that the District hosts the conference and it has gained the support of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who serves as the chairman of the Committee on Health and Dr. Mohammad Akhter, director of the D.C. Department of Health. Former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt is the honorary chair of the conference.
The theme of the conference is "Turning the Tide Together." Clinton, 65, is scheduled to speak at the closing session on Fri., July 27 and Mon., July 23, John, 65, will deliver remarks to the conferees.
Pratt, 68, could not be reached for comment on her role by Informer press time.
While the conference is international in scope, local entities will play key roles.
The Washington Blade, in Northwest, one of the country's leading media outlets for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender news, will serve as the official media partner for the conference.
The First Baptist Church in Northwest, led by the Rev. Frank Tucker, will also play a role.
"We will have one or two people that will be participating in the conference," said Tucker, 70, who is a leading activist in the city on AIDS education and testing. "We will have a remote site in our church that will stream into the proceedings. People at the church will be able to view conference sessions and discussions."
Whitman-Walker Health of Northwest and 49 community organizations will sponsor a forum, "Return to Lisner" that will discuss the current state of HIV/AIDS at the Lisner Auditorium located on the campus of George Washington University in Northwest on Tue., July 24. The city's first forum on HIV/AIDS took place at Lisner Auditorium on April 4, 1983.
The keynote speaker will be Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of the late Ryan White and a panel discussion that will include Phill Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute and a special performance by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington.
Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman-Walker Health, said that the forum is timely. "At that first forum in 1983, a community was under siege and scared to hear what little information there was on this new epidemic," Blanchon said.
"Today, we face a much brighter future than we could have imagined then. The forum will look at where we stand today with HIV and what the future of the epidemic looks like."
A section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on the National Mall and in more than 40 locations throughout the city.
AIDS 2012 will be an educational and inspiring conference, said Dr. Diane Havlir, U.S. co-chair and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
"AIDS 2012 represents a unique occasion to mobilize policy makers, governments, non-governmental organizations, scientists, people living with HIV and civil society to join forces," she said.
"Despite the turbulent global economic climate we cannot miss this historic moment, and it is vital to continue to attract funding to invest in AIDS research and promote programs based on effectiveness and efficiency in order to optimize the use of resources."