Why attend the International AIDS Conference 2018

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Thursday 25th January 2018

The International AIDS Conference is the biggest global health conference in the world, attracting over 20,000 delegates. It is a great opportunity to meet other people living with HIV and working in the sector from around the world. This year the conference will be held in Amsterdam on 23-28th July 2018.

Jackie Morton, Chair of HIV Scotland from 2011 to 2015, attended the International AIDS conference in 2012 held in Washington DC. Here she shares what it was like to be there and how it impacted her life.

I was lucky to be funded to attend the 19th IAS World AIDS conference in Washington DC in July 2012. I cannot describe the enormity of the venue where some 26000 delegates came together for this five-day international conference that addressed issues on human rights, policy, personal and social aspects of living with and being affected by HIV. A warm glow of excitement engulfed me as I attended the many events and presentations on clinical data, research, prevention and long term health care management of HIV. And as one delegate having lived with HIV for three years, I felt quite liberated as I joined this family of passionate scientists, clinicians, politicians and the many activists on this world stage.

Guest speakers such as Sharon Stone, Elton John, Hilary Clinton, and Bill Gates led thought-provoking talks and explained why they focused on this disease which is often stigmatized by society. There was no stigmatism here, everyone felt welcomed and it was easy to openly talk about my own experience, sharing with colleagues from across the world and from different cultures. Wandering around the global village of stallholders gave an opportunity to gather information, leaflets and meet with others willing to support and to aid my own knowledge and activism.

My lasting memory is sitting in the main hall after waiting excitedly to see Elton John only to be distracted by the many quilts for life that were displayed all around the walls of this huge venue. The poignant messages sewn by family members and friends highlighted the many young people who had died from AIDS in the 80s and 90s. Tears sprung from my eyes as I read these powerful epitaphs. It made me feel so lucky to have been diagnosed with HIV in the 2000s, how different my life is with the virus. It was an amazing experience and one that some 6 years later has had a massive influence on my life, driving my own activism to improve life for those less able or unable to speak about their condition.

Each year the conference offer financial support for some people to attend through the International Scholarship Programme. The programme is open to anyone who will be at least 16 years old at the time of the conference and works or volunteers in the field of HIV. The conference adopts a priority system whereby preference is given to people whose participation in the conference can:

• enhance their work in their own communities
• assist in the transfer of skills and knowledge acquired at the conference
• whose abstract, workshop or youth activity has been selected.

The conference organisers adopt a non-biased scoring system to select the successful candidates. These scholarships are limited in numbers.

Find out more information and apply.

The closing date for applications is 5th February.

Note: This is one person’s story and does not represent everyone's experiences.
In 2012, travel restrictions to the USA prevented sex workers and drug users who had received charges from travelling, meaning that some activists and allies were unable to attend the conference in Washington DC. On this occasion the Global Network of Sex Work Projects organised an alternative IAC so sex workers could attend a global event and share their own experiences. This alternative IAC took place in Kolkata, India. Read more about it.

The USA travel ban is still in place.