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I left the Toronto AIDS Conference last week unsettled. One of the purposes of these conferences is to bring together most of the people working in the field to share lessons and re-energize us to fight harder and do more to help people infected and affected by the disease. But Toronto felt like a professional trade show. Why?
25 years into the epidemic, we know that AIDS will be with us for a while. Microbicides are at least 5 years out, and a vaccine is at best 10 years away. More people are getting infected every year than are getting treatment. We are still losing the war.
AIDS has also turned into big business. With $8.9 billion available this year according to UNAIDS, AIDS programs have more money than most other health and development programs.
The conference also had too many participants from Europe and North America. Many participants from Latin America, Asia and Africa -- particularly those living with HIV -- were unable to get visas or couldn't afford to travel. There were too few voices of the infected to remind us of the urgency of the effort. It is unfortunate that the next conference will be held in Mexico. In the future, conferences should be held in the countries most affected by the disease to increase participation of those affected, and to remind us of the urgency of our efforts.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.