The International AIDS Conference – the largest gathering on HIV and AIDS in the world – announced that its 23rd edition, AIDS 2020, that was scheduled to be held from July 6-10 in San Francisco and Oakland will be its first virtual conference. The announcement came even as the United States recorded around 104,000 confirmed novel Coronavirus (COVOD-19) cases and 1,693 deaths. Globally, the virus has infected over 595,000 persons and killed around 27,300, as per latest estimates.
One of the main reasons, the organisers alluded to for going digital, was the uncertainty and lack of knowledge around the trajectory COVID-19 pandemic. The last conference in 2018 had seen around 16,000 delegates, including researchers, policy makers, funders and community leaders, from 160 countries, come together in Amsterdam. IAC said it had decided against postponing the conference to a later date owing to the fact that it was still unclear when it would be “safe, permissible and logistical” to hold an international conference of this scale and size.
“Our decision was informed by advice from the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, leading global and local health authorities, and people living with HIV around the globe. In particular, we are acutely aware that there is not yet sufficient data on whether people living with HIV are more susceptible to COVID-19 or more likely to develop severe disease. Therefore, we have a special obligation to reduce any potential risk to the HIV community,”said the IAC in a statement. The organisers acknowledged that many of those planning to attend the conference were now working in the frontlines of the COVID-19 response and it was necessary not to put them or their home communities at risk.
The theme of AIDS 2020: Virtual, ‘Resilience’ will resonate especially in the response to the global outbreak of COVID-19. The virtual edition, the organisers informed, will comprise “virtual sessions and community networking, including exhibitions, workshops, the Global Village, satellites and pre-conferences, that will reach audiences around the world.
IAC’s announcement was welcomed by social media users as a “difficult, but good decision.” There were also suggestions that late breaker abstract submissions for the conference include papers on “how COVID-19 affects people living with HIV”.
You can check up the latest information about the conference at https://www.aids2020.org/