July 18, 2014

AIDS 2014 opens in Melbourne overshadowed by an international tragedy

This post originally appeared on the UNAIDS website here. Reposted with permission.

AIDS 2014 opened overshadowed by an international tragedy. During a ceremonial inauguration to welcome the conference participants to the city, the organizers expressed deep sadness for the loss of the many delegates travelling on flight MH17.

Speakers at the event stressed the importance of honouring the legacy of the researchers and AIDS advocates who died by increasing efforts and commitments to pursue their cause. “It is a difficult moment. We lost friends, activists and people who are the voice of the voiceless,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

The Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine, said, “This is a massive loss to our community, who worked together across the world to tackle HIV.”

Mr Sidibé participated together with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, and the co-chair of the AIDS 2014 conference, Sharon Lewin, in the lighting of the AIDS 2014 sign event. Messages from international leaders, including President Barack Obama, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and the Mayors of Milan, Osaka, Tianjin and Thessaloniki, were projected onto the façade of the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall. Mr Sidibé’s message read “Ending AIDS is the only dream we should all have.”

The 20th International AIDS conference will take place from 20 to 25 July in the Australian city of Melbourne under the theme “Stepping up the pace”.

AIDS 2014

Delegates from all over the world will participate in a series of sessions, panels and community-led discussions to take stock of the progress made, analyse the latest scientific advances and mobilize governments and communities to chart the way forward to end the AIDS epidemic.

This year’s theme recognizes the many advances made in the past few years in the areas of vaccine research, the growing number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy and the falling number of new HIV infections. However, “Stepping up the pace” also stresses the need to keep HIV as a priority in the global agenda and that more investments, collaborative research and political commitment are needed to ensure that no one is left behind.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé will be among the high-level speakers participating in the conference, together with President Bill Clinton and artist and activist Bob Geldof. UNAIDS will be participating in a number of events before and during the conference, including the preconference sessions on youth, men who have sex with men, and interfaith communities, as well as other sessions on HIV treatment, adolescents, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and human rights, among others.