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Really Rapid Review — 2012 International AIDS Conference, Washington, DC

Posted Aug 01 2012 8:58pm

Last week’s International AIDS Conference in Washington got plenty of media attention, mostly because it was the first time in umpteen years that it was held in the United States, the delay between meetings due to our absurd (and now repealed) immigration laws regarding HIV.

(Quick trivia question — where was the conference supposed to be in 1991 when it was cancelled?)

As is typical of these meetings, which alternate with the smaller International AIDS Society Conference from year-to-year, there was plenty going on from a political and activist perspective. Still, there was some notable clinical research, so here then is a Really Rapid Review© of some conference highlights, both scientific and otherwise.

Now the non-scientific part.

  • Hilary Clinton was great in one of the opening plenaries. As is inevitable for these conferences, vocal protesters interrupted her as she began speaking; she handled them perfectly, citing how important protests have been to advance the HIV cause. But come on — I can’t think of any major politicians who have done more for HIV than the Clintons — why protest her at all?
  • Yes, it was hot — really hot, this was Washington in July, after all — but fortunately not as hot as it was the week before the conference , when even the locals were complaining. For the record, on the day I flew back, it was 97 in Washington, 77 in Boston.
  • Heat notwithstanding, these bikes are a great way of seeing the city sites. Just … ride … very … slowly.
  • The National Gallery is simply one of the best art museums on the planet — and it’s free! The George Bellows exhibit (representative painting above, click on it to enlarge) was sensational – and not just because he was recruited to play professional baseball while in college.
  • There was the familiar prominent display of condoms, etc by these folks . I bet the cardiologists don’t get a similar opportunity during their big meetings. But I truly hope they (the condom people) leave the microphone at home next time, yikes that was loud.

Next year’s conference is in Kuala Lumpur — which is, amazingly, not quite as hot in the summertime as Washington, DC, but is much harder to get to, at least for those of us living in this hemisphere. It will be interesting to see what kind of attendance the conference gets.

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