An overview of the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington

posted at 8:01 pm on July 18, 2012 by Dustin Siggins

Next week the annual International AIDS Conference is taking place in Washington, D.C. from July 22 through July 27. It is being held in America for the first time since 1990. Curious about what it consists of, and having found about it too late to attend, I conducted a combination e-mail and phone interview with Bob Witeck about the Conference and its significance. Bob is President of Witeck Communication, a D.C.-based strategic marketing and public relations firm that works with major corporations on their business strategies related to the gay community. He formerly worked on Capitol Hill for Republican Senator Packwood (R-OR) and currently sits on the Diversity Boards of a number of corporations, including News Corp. and Miller-Coors.

Dustin Siggins: What is the significance of holding the International AIDS Conference in America? How many people are expected to attend?

Bob Witeck: We are told that the Conference is likely to attract 20,000 to 25,000 people from at least 200 countries. Given the global pandemic and the giant economic impact of HIV/AIDS, this is no doubt why so many scientists, health researchers, business leaders and government representatives take part. Having the conference in the U.S. is historic (and the first time since 1990) because the Obama Administration at last lifted the restrictions on visitors from overseas living with HIV/AIDS. It stands to reason that the conference could never be held in the U.S. so long as there was a policy of discrimination against the very people the conference participants are most determined to help.

DS: What is the significance of the Conference in general? Is it a place for victim support, fundraising for AIDS victims, pushing policy, or all of the above and then some?

BW: To begin, the word “victim” is both inaccurate and demeaning, and it is rarely used in most contexts since victimization is not how the response to HIV/AIDS is viewed by most leaders and experts today. We also know that like cancer, tuberculosis and other widespread diseases, people live with the consequences of all kinds of health issues and disabilities – but that does not render them helpless or reduce them merely to victims.

The Conference is significant primarily because it engenders a global community of expertise and purpose – in how dollars are invested, research is conducted, treatments are prioritized and solutions shared with some of the smartest and most effective professionals in the world. Given the scale of this challenge, it is essential to globalize human talent and to find consensus how to invest the funds that are available to do the most good and to achieve lasting change. Disease of any kind stands in the way of human progress and purpose, and a global epidemic is a threat to stability and economic success – in addition to the massive human toll. This Conference customarily surfaces new findings and rededicates hard-working groups to use and expand the knowledge they receive here.

DS: But isn’t research done all the time and all over the world?

BW: Yes, of course it is. But conferences like these are catalysts. Look at it like a computer – putting people together and motivating them to coordinate is a lot more effective. They are unlocking keys for our human bodies, and this science is not exclusive to helping only those living with HIV and AIDS. It is helping with fundamental knowledge, immunology, cancer, transplantation and so on. The science is the driver for all of this.

DS: What are some of the major themes that will be presented?

BW: Again, this Conference is primarily a knowledge-sharing and networking gathering. However, at each Conference there customarily are higher expectations for some medical and therapeutic breakthroughs. There exists today no cure for HIV/AIDS, and that day is not yet in sight, however, through these Conferences, extraordinary contributions have been made to medical research and to enhance our response to an encyclopedic range of illnesses, diseases, immune dysfunction, and to grow our grasp of basic cellular sciences. In short, whether or not HIV/AIDS ever existed, the myriad advances in health care, epidemiology and basic medical sciences have been huge and sustained. All of mankind benefits from this work and these Conferences.

DS: Is it significant that President Obama is not attending? Or is that just media hype? How important was his Administration in getting this here?

BW: I am personally disappointed he is not attending; however, there is satisfaction that he is hosting some of the participants at the White House, we understand. What matters most of all is his commitment to a U.S. funded and science-based response to HIV here at home and overseas that produces lasting and measurable results, and that is a bipartisan or even a nonpartisan investment. As I mentioned, his Administration changed U.S. travel policies and lifted restrictions that made it possible for the Conference to be held this year in Washington, D.C. and that deserves kudos.

DS: I understand President Bush set the stage for the Conference being in Washington. This is an area he really has garnered praise both domestically and internationally. Does he deserve some credit for this?

BW: Both President and Mrs. Bush are to be congratulated and honored for the Bush Administration’s policies, compassion and commitment to global HIV/AIDS. President Bush set the bar high, and deserves credit for the important global work he led and the funding he promised.

DS: I imagine the Conference addresses politically controversial topics, such as the role of contraception in Africa and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the gay community. Does the Conference do a good job of rising above partisan rancor?

BW: Actually most of the content throughout the Conference, including the submission of research papers, is intently focused on sound science and medicine. In the public policy arena, the discussions will focus on social and cultural norms that surround treating and ending epidemics, and of course, there is debate and controversy. That goes with the territory.

 

Note (DS): While Bob and I didn’t get into it above, issues like contraception and sex education are always part of debates over the most effective paths to HIV/AIDS prevention, and the decisions on if or how they are utilized are important to any discussion of HIV/AIDS. Rather than delve into that, however, I decided to keep the interview focused on the overall point of the Conference itself.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

…JugEars will be there!

KOOLAID2 on July 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM

DS: Is it significant that President Obama is not attending? Or is that just media hype? How important was his Administration in getting this here?

BW: I am personally disappointed he is not attending; however, there is satisfaction that he is hosting some of the participants at the White House, we understand

…he’ll “evolve”!

KOOLAID2 on July 18, 2012 at 8:13 PM

eh… okay?

Timin203 on July 18, 2012 at 8:14 PM

because the Obama Administration at last lifted the restrictions on visitors from overseas living with HIV/AIDS.

Yay Obama!

All this concern over a 100% preventable disease…

tom daschle concerned on July 18, 2012 at 8:15 PM

…JugEars will be there!

KOOLAID2 on July 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM

I was just sitting back…
Clicking refresh..
to see who would post first.

Where is everyone?

Electrongod on July 18, 2012 at 8:15 PM

That vaccine is really gonna put a crimp in their fundraising.

CherryBombsBigBrownBeaver on July 18, 2012 at 8:16 PM

he is hosting some of the participants at the White House,

…more flipping the “bird” to the RR portraits?

KOOLAID2 on July 18, 2012 at 8:16 PM

Where is everyone?

Electrongod on July 18, 2012 at 8:15 PM

…trying to figure out where Harry Reid gets his clothes in two other threads.

KOOLAID2 on July 18, 2012 at 8:19 PM

So it’s a big conference of people talking about what they wish they could do, all the while 0bamacare is going to do HIV+ people what The Left always accuses our side of wanting to do. Do you really think the death panels are going to okay expensive medicines for HIV+ people?

SouthernGent on July 18, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Aren’t pretty much ALL venereal diseases easily preventable?

logis on July 18, 2012 at 8:23 PM

Not one dime of public money should be used to research treatments for this completely avoidable disease.

Let’s put our money and time to work curing illness and injury that people suffer from through no fault of their own.

sartana on July 18, 2012 at 8:23 PM

I live an abstinent life. I never have to worry about AIDS and I don’t cost anything to society as a result. It’s that simple. Just learn to keep your pants on. NO research money needed beyond that for a 100% preventable disease.

mydh12 on July 18, 2012 at 8:25 PM

Aren’t pretty much ALL venereal diseases easily preventable?

logis on July 18, 2012 at 8:23 PM

Pretty much. Although AIDS isn’t strictly a VD…

But with that said, we’ll see fusion-powered cars before we see a cure for AIDS. Or in other words, probably not in our lifetimes and most likely never.

MelonCollie on July 18, 2012 at 8:27 PM

So it’s a big conference of people talking about what they wish they could do, all the while 0bamacare is going to do HIV+ people what The Left always accuses our side of wanting to do. Do you really think the death panels are going to okay expensive medicines for HIV+ people?

SouthernGent on July 18, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Yes, the politically-correct death panels will approve expensive AIDS treatments.

mydh12 on July 18, 2012 at 8:27 PM

27 comments or bust!

Bishop on July 18, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Pretty much. Although AIDS isn’t strictly a VD…
MelonCollie on July 18, 2012 at 8:27 PM

What in the Hell does “strictly VD” mean? It’s right around a thousand times easier to catch herpes from a doorknob as it is AIDS.

Any disease that has to be injected directly into your blood stream is about as hard to transmit as is possible. And now we’re supposed to spend another trillion dollars trying to create a vaccine to make it “safe” to have unprotected anal sex.

Is it really a gigantic wonder why AIDS activists have a worldwide conference to “discuss communication,” and you can’t find one person there remotely capable of giving a straight answer to even the simplest of questions?

logis on July 18, 2012 at 8:36 PM

“Give us more taxpayer dollars!”

RoadRunner on July 18, 2012 at 8:39 PM

Let’s put our money and time to work curing illness and injury that people suffer from through no fault of their own.
sartana on July 18, 2012 at 8:23 PM

I’m trying to figure out why this is even supposed to be worthy of a blogpost. As you said, if we’re going to have disease-related posts let them be re: something worthy of our interest and attention. There’s a myriad of genetic/congenital diseases that strike the most helpless and innocent among us, such as little Bella Santorum’s struggle with Trisomy 18. AIDS is 100% preventable.

whatcat on July 18, 2012 at 8:43 PM

Not really sure what to do with this one. Typically I view the AIDS issue as an Africa as its so widespread that many people are born with it and one moment of indiscretion–gay or straight–can run a person a 20%+ chance of signing their own death sentence. Lack of knowledge on how the disease is spread and significant adherence to superstitious indigenous religions is also a big issue.

What does bother me is how the gay rights movement in the US has tried to co-opt the AIDS issue and and install it into their overarching victimhood worldview on one hand while trying to deny AIDS as “the gay disease” on the other.

LukeinNE on July 18, 2012 at 8:44 PM

There are some medical professionals who became infected with through accidental needle sticks, mostly before the disease was understood. Also some blood donors and the like.

But if you really want to know how Obamacare will deal with aids take a look at how Castro does it. Kinda like leper colonies without the compassionate priests.

halfbaked on July 18, 2012 at 8:44 PM

As an Africa problem** I meant to say above.

LukeinNE on July 18, 2012 at 8:44 PM

Welcome to AIDS 2012

http://www.aids2012.org/
———————-

Prominent Voices to Address AIDS 2012
*************************************

Leaders from the worlds of science, diplomacy, politics, philanthropy and entertainment are speaking at AIDS 2012, including:

President Bill Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius

South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe

Former U.S. First Lady Laura Bush

HRH Mette-Marit, Crown Princess of Norway

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci

Philanthropist Bill Gates

Humanitarian Elton John

Actress Whoopi Goldberg
==================================

Programme

Programme-at-a-Glance

The entire AIDS 2012 programme is available online through the Programme-at-a-Glance (PAG). Links to abstracts, slide sets with audio, rapporteur reports and e-posters will be added as they are available. A PDF version of the PAG is avaiable here.

Please, select a date to access the printable version of the programme:
**********

Sunday, 22 July 2012
Monday, 23 July 2012
Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Thursday, 26 July 2012
Friday, 27 July 2012

http://pag.aids2012.org/Downloads.aspx

canopfor on July 18, 2012 at 8:46 PM

And now we’re supposed to spend another trillion dollars trying to create a vaccine to make it “safe” to have unprotected anal sex.

Because you can only get AIDS through anal sex, right? The vagina is so pure and godly that it just kills the HIV. *rolls eyes*

Cyhort on July 18, 2012 at 9:01 PM

Sometimes my fellow conservatives might just stray into the bigot territory, and a lot of the comments on this post stay that way.

Do you really think that helps with our message?

traye on July 18, 2012 at 9:18 PM

What does this have to do with conservative political philosophy?

peacenprosperity on July 18, 2012 at 9:21 PM

Peacenprosperity, I thought of it more as an informational bit on a newsworthy event that both of our last Presidents were involved in. Less about philosophy and more about providing news.

Though in retrospect it’s a bit dry. :o)

Dustin Siggins on July 18, 2012 at 9:25 PM

canopfor on July 18, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Dustin, that;s an awful lot of leftists on the agenda. He threw you this softball

Actually most of the content throughout the Conference, including the submission of research papers, is intently focused on sound science and medicine. In the public policy arena, the discussions will focus on social and cultural norms that surround treating and ending epidemics, and of course, there is debate and controversy.

and you let it go by without asking for any clarification on exactly what the debate and controversy was in the past. In addition, anyone with this vocation,

currently sits on the Diversity Boards of a number of corporations

probably deserves alot more scrutiny then the unchallenged stage that you gave him.

peacenprosperity on July 18, 2012 at 9:32 PM

Dustin, just a friendly bit of advice; maybe you should run your ideas or better yet your actual blogs/stories/novels past Ed before you post them. Might just save you from more abuse like you took last night.

D-fusit on July 18, 2012 at 9:38 PM

But, but, wait a minute – obama’s Black Panthers claim that the “white man’s” U.S. government “invented” HIV and purposely and methodically infected blacks by giving them infected drug needles AND is withholding the “cure” that they have had for many years in order to “enslave” the black man to the “white man’s” Federal Government and keep him under control.

SO – why are we searching for a cure that already exists and is “locked away” in a “white man’s” government lab somewhere? I’m confused.

Pork-Chop on July 18, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Peacenprosperity, I did indeed let Bob slide a lot, but I think his overall perspective kept away from the lefty slant he could have given. He is pretty liberal, but overall kept it solid, I think.

D-Fusit, I’ve run a few of my pieces by Ed, and he’s approved them. By and large he allows me to post at my own discretion, which I admit I have struggled with this week. This is the most I’ve had to publish in such a short period of time in quite a while, and I’m trying to be creative and informational at the same time. I think I forgot, on Monday and Tuesday, that this is a blog… not an op-ed page.

But I do appreciate the friendly advice. As you note, I did take a lot of abuse last night, though I don’t think my Palin piece was particularly bad.

Dustin Siggins on July 18, 2012 at 9:49 PM

He is pretty liberal, but overall kept it solid, I think.

Come on, Dustin. You went easy on him and he kept the true agenda hidden. That’s what they do. You could have asked him to compare and contrast the actions of Bush and Obama. That would have got him stammering. You could have just asked him what the goal of the conference is afterall. You could have asked him if the conference ” is intently focused on sound science and medicine” then why are all the speakers leftwing politicians/celebrities and not doctors and scientists? I have nothing against giving a leftist a forum but he’s got to be ready and willing to face the music with honesty and integrity. I know, a leftist reacting with honesty and integrity is a wild fantasy but it is up to us to set the bar higher and point out when they are crawling under it. Some bored “moderate undecided” stumbles across Hot Air and reads that article and his perception is that the conference is on the up and up and all those leftists and democrats are wonderful compassionate people. Me, I think there are several people on that panel that would be happy to buy the buses from canadian factories that they force us onto to send us to the reeducation camps.

peacenprosperity on July 18, 2012 at 10:06 PM

MOAR PATHOLOGIES PLZ!!

I’m saving my self for the Runny Nose Convention of 2013 or the My Back Hurts Extravaganza. Is there anything else left to commercialize? As for AIDS specifically, well it’s possible to wipe it out completely if it would stop being transmitted; and since it’s not airborne (yet)…well, you get it. Until then though MOAR MONIES!!! MOAR SERVICES!!! MOAR DRUGS!!! MOAR WEALTH TO BE PILFERED!!!

And yes, more juvenile posts, notwithstanding the few individuals whom actually care. If there weren’t an abundance of scumbags, perhaps I could be on board. The only thing larger than the Universe is a person’s Ego.

John Kettlewell on July 18, 2012 at 10:07 PM

Peacenprosperity, I concede the point. Excellently argued.

Dustin Siggins on July 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM

Sometimes my fellow conservatives might just stray into the bigot territory, and a lot of the comments on this post stay that way.

Do you really think that helps with our message?

traye

Do you really think it helps our side to pull out the lame bigot card usually played by liberals?

xblade on July 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM

Mr. Siggins,

for whatever it’s worth, I for one admire the tone and substance of your stories. Too many people are afraid to address these issues the way you are.

avgjo on July 18, 2012 at 10:49 PM

xblade

Exactly. The word bigot is a hiding place for those that have no substantive argument or even who are flat out wrong on a position. It’s a lot like the word ‘racist’. It’s an ‘empty cause of solid harms’.

avgjo on July 18, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Avoid receptive anal intercourse and this disease will run its course and disappear.

Mason on July 18, 2012 at 11:38 PM

Do you really think it helps our side to pull out the lame bigot card usually played by liberals?

xblade on July 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM

That card doesn’t need to be played if its already laid out.

V-rod on July 19, 2012 at 1:08 AM

BW: Actually most of the content throughout the Conference, including the submission of research papers, is intently focused on sound science and medicine. In the public policy arena, the discussions will focus on social and cultural norms that surround treating and ending epidemics, and of course, there is debate and controversy. That goes with the territory.

Can we have a shout-out for monogamous relationships and values of chastity and abstinence?

Please?

You know, good and morally upright behavior for prevention of the spread of AIDS?

Pretty please?

ajacksonian on July 19, 2012 at 7:12 AM

Avgjo,

Thanks for the kind words. They are greatly appreciated.

Dustin Siggins on July 19, 2012 at 7:55 AM

Avoid receptive anal intercourse and this disease will run its course and disappear.

Mason on July 18, 2012 at 11:38 PM

A dear STRAIGHT friend of mine contracted it via a single drunken one night stand he stupidly had at 18. He died in August.

I’m sure you’re perfect though and always have been.

hollygolightly on July 19, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Avoid receptive anal intercourse and this disease will run its course and disappear.

Dumbsh!t Inbred Fundie on July 18, 2012 at 11:38 PM

A dear STRAIGHT friend of mine contracted it via a single drunken one night stand he stupidly had at 18. He died in August.

I’m sure you’re perfect though and always have been.

hollygolightly on July 19, 2012 at 8:05 AM

I’m so sorry holly; that must be unimaginably painful. AIDS is hitting all sections of the population now…

MelonCollie on July 19, 2012 at 9:04 AM

What does bother me is how the gay rights movement in the US has tried to co-opt the AIDS issue and and install it into their overarching victimhood worldview on one hand while trying to deny AIDS as “the gay disease” on the other.

LukeinNE on July 18, 2012 at 8:44 PM

THIS.

It’s too bad that the left’s favorite special interests’ group has made this into one of their pet projects, because from a scientific standpoint, HIV really is a fascinating virus. I’ll spare the details for the sake of those with little interest in molecular biology, but the way the virus infiltrates the target cell and does its business is pretty interesting.

If you’re going to hold a conference to discuss it, though, I hope they have more sciency-type people than “Diversity Board”-type people in attendance…

Mr. Prodigy on July 19, 2012 at 9:20 AM

AIDS is hitting all sections of the population now…

Sorry, can’t let you get away with that one. 98% of those who contract aids contract it through irresponsible and dangerous activity. The others contract it through innocent and sometimes indirect contact with someone who contracted it through irresponsible and dangerous activity. In Africa it has spread wildly through prostitution, rape and homosexual activity. It has not spread through the healthy, normal sectors of American society as predicted in the 1980′s. It is still almost exclusively a disease of bad behavior.

peacenprosperity on July 19, 2012 at 9:44 AM

I’m so sorry holly; that must be unimaginably painful. AIDS is hitting all sections of the population now…

MelonCollie on July 19, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Thank you.

I understand that it’s mostly caused by irresponsible and high risk behavior, but this mentality around here that “that’s what you get” makes me crazy. Everyone makes mistakes and acting like one mistake means you deserve a slow and painful death at 33 is disgusting.

hollygolightly on July 19, 2012 at 10:05 AM

AIDS is important because no one but no one wants a foci of infection of anything to be ignored. No tell what it might become or where it might no.

On the other hand the golightly silliness about mistakes is what has made this country contemptible. We are responsible for what happens to us, even if it is no more than contributory negligence.

If you like excuses watch Maury or Doctor Phil, because you will get no ratification from me, though perhaps help.

Denver Bob on July 19, 2012 at 11:55 AM

On the other hand the golightly silliness about mistakes is what has made this country contemptible. We are responsible for what happens to us, even if it is no more than contributory negligence.

If you like excuses watch Maury or Doctor Phil, because you will get no ratification from me, though perhaps help.

Denver Bob on July 19, 2012 at 11:55 AM

I didn’t say it wasn’t their responsibility. Only that they don’t DESERVE AIDS, which seems to be the mentality of many in this thread. I guess not wishing death upon people who make bad decisions makes me silly. Oh well.

hollygolightly on July 19, 2012 at 12:33 PM