My mind is still buzzing from all the information and discussion I participated in at Vienna.
Some random facts and numbers on the International AIDS Conference stuck on my mind:
The last conference in Mexico cost: 20.000.000 USD. My head is spinning thinking of all those dollar bills! How many shoes is that….?
However in 2010 the budget will be 15% or 20% smaller. So ,really, we need to think hard how we can make less more.
More then 20.000 people participated to the last conference.
9ooo paying participants
The conference organizers still aim to offer the same level of scholarships, but also expand virtual access with more and more hubs, local computers connected to the conference, from which people can listen and participate.
There were 136 hubs which followed Mexico from around the world…but none in the UK,
Eastern Europe and Central Asia will be the focus of Vienna 2010. Unfortunately they couldn’t find a place with the suitable infrastructures in those areas that – if you don’t know- have had the fastest growing epidemic in the world in the past 10 years, mainly lead by injecting drug use. The epidemic has been made much worst by the lack of access to ARVs and harm reduction (clean needles, methadone etc.).
In Mexico only 3% of participants came from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, so we hope that Vienna, sitting (nearly) at the doors of Russia will make it easier for PLHIV from those areas to participate.
For those of you who speak Russian you will be happy to know that all conference materials and translations will be offered also in Russian.
However, realistically it is not expected that more then 6% of participants will be from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
I try to be optimistic about the impact that this will have, and for now I feel it is great that at least there is an initial intention to have people who inject drugs at centre stage.
But I am also fully aware that the change we seek is an arduous task. All I can think of is the quote by Margaret Mead
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’