In my last blog I talked about looking back to look forward and the last global AIDS conference in Amsterdam in 1992… thanks for the feedback received.
Looking forward now to AIDS2018 much has changed – but much remains the same.
Two of the big changes have been the increase in the involvement of community (especially through the Global Village becoming a permanent feature of the conferences) … and the establishment of pre-conferences.
The Global Village
The increased involvement of the community was first demanded in 1989 (Montreal, Canada) when community activists stormed the stage to protest the exclusion of ‘People Living with HIV’ and affected communities.
It was a turning point for Canadian AIDS activism for many, but it was not until the Bangkok, Thailand (2004) conference that having a fully fledged community space was realized – though having a community space did not dampen activism during the conference. Indeed the global village is always a good place to plan activist input into the ‘main’ conference! This is especially useful when (as in Bangkok) community voices, even when on the plenary stage at the opening ceremony, are relegated to being the the last speaker after all the ‘important people’, have left as happened to Paisan Suwannawon, the leader of the Thai drug users network, when drawing attention to the murderous war on drugs in Thailand,
Many activists still see the Global Village as a way of ‘excluding’ community voices and concerns – a side event/safety valve to keep ‘the community quiet’ so that the main business of the conference, scientists talking to scientists and governments, does not get too disrupted; and evaluations of the community village bear some of this out.
The official conference site describes the Global Village as a ‘diverse and vibrant space’ where communities from all over the world gather to meet, share and learn from each other. It intersects the main conference programme, blending scientific sessions with cultural activities, live performances, networking zones, NGO booths, marketplace booths, and art exhibits. Here, communities can demonstrate the application of science and good leadership, and conference participants are invited to see how science translates into community action and intervention.
It is open to the general public and conference delegates, and admission is free. Many who can’t afford, or get refused scholarships, but can get to Amsterdam spend all their conference in the community spaces. At AIDS 2018, the Global Village will be located in Hall 5 and the Amtrium of the RAI Amsterdam, covering more than 8,000 square metres, and overall the conference site is huge – here is a virtual tour of the (empty) space .
So yes, it is a BIG space – and though full programme for the space will not be available until the end of April, what is guaranteed is that it will be a very lively, sometime chaotic, and definitely noisy space.
Things to bear in mind even now are:
When the layout of the site for the conference and the sessions is finally published on the AIDS2018 site – plan out how to get from one point to another in advance.
Even if your abstract, workshop is not accepted for the main conference there may be ways you can promote the work you have done in one of the networking zones in the global village or at one of the community booths – more about that in a future blog.
Though the full programme is not available yet there is already one event you can get involved in, organized by the Dutch HIV Association (the PLHIV organization of the Netherlands ) – even if you are not going to be at the conference. They want to ‘collect a million selfies to make a powerful statement on stigma and discrimination against people with HIV during the World Aids Conference in Amsterdam in July 2018’. You can join in here
The history and development of pre-conferences is like that of the global village – community driven and demanded. They started as a way of (cost effectively) gathering people together before the main conference to organize around a community or theme. The idea has in some ways become the victim of its own success… this year there are 23 official pre-conferences , yes 23!!!, all happening on the 21st and/or 22nd July! It is impossible to go to all of them and unfair to the organizers to mix and match with an hour here and an hour there so pick the one you really want to go to. Many of them you have to pre-register for, and if you are a scholarship applicant you can sign up before you find out the result of your application. If your conference scholarship application is approved and you have registered for a pre-conference (and been accepted) then the conference organizers should arrange your flight and accommodation to make sure you can take part in them.
Other than the official pre-conferences there is at least one that is happening, is important, and should be noted:
The historic De Balie, is at Leidseplein, in the heart of Amsterdam. Further details, including how to register, will be announced in April. To make sure you get an opportunity to find out about this and the HIV Justice Worldwide movementsign up to be part of it