Opening Ceremony at Barcelona
Reported by Jules Levin
This conference has turned into a hollywood movie. There are street
entertainers-- people on stilts. I'm watching the opening session which
started with what I think was a vacuous Jay leno type opening. Three
"entertainers" said the required things. This year's conference is a
tremendous disapointment to me compared to the substance of Durban. So far to
me this conference seems circus like. Jose Gatell, the conference chair & a
lead Spanish HIV researcher, is giving a welcome to the 14,000 attendees at
this meeting. Gatell is talking about the importance of vaccines,
simplification of therapy and other treatment related stuff. He is pleased
this conference is being held in Spanish speaking country. He is talking
about the need for better prevetion. A few hours earlier he was fielding
attacking verbal assualts at a press conference on why foreign reports were
denied visas to get here. Gatell said this is the largest conference to date.
His statements and that of others so far in the opening appear to me to be
very trite and hackneyed. The commentary and presentations so far are very
routine and mundane. Stefano Vella is now speaking. He welcomes the people
with AIDS at conference & those not with us anymore. This strikes chord of
realness with me. He also welcomes the community based organizations to the
conference. Of course there is emphasis placed on preventing mother to child
transmission & keeping parents alive with ART in the developing world. He
said lets have Barcelona be the start of turning expectations to reality.
Vella asked for $10 million for international AIDS and treatment for 2
million people, and lower prices in developing world, and access to generic
drugs in the developing world, and participation by NGOs in this process. In
the meantime, our HHS chief Tommy Thompson spoke here today at "press
conference" and was challenged by observers -- what about ADAP cuts in the
USA and the underserved communities in the USA. Money and funding is level or
cut for these communities. There is no money for ADAP to cover HCV. Thompson
said he (HHS) would ask for money for ADAP, lets see. They are showing a
video on women, needle exchange, community issues for PWAs. They talks seem
fairly scripted, although Vella was a little inspiring.
There are tons of community attending this conference from all over the
world. The facility here is very crowded. Still, there appear to be some
interesting posters and oral presentations here on treatment. And of course
NATAP is covering this conference and will report back to you. There are a
few interesting presentations here: the French are presenting 48 week data on
a 400 person study in coinfected patients receiving pegintron plus ribavirin;
there are several interesting siimplification studies being presented; and I
think a few interesting studies on improving metabolics. The AZT once a day
study is being presented. And GSK has 1 or 2 posters on their integrase
inhibitor. From the Resistance Wksp I reported to you the talk by Merck on
their integrase inhibitor, which they announced for the first time monkey
data & that they are going into HIV-infected in the Fall. Plus BMS announced
interesting new data on their entry inhibitor program. The mayor of Barcelona
is speaking and thanking everyone for making this conference possible. I'm
still disappointed in this opening and in the rhetoric. Not very inspiring.
He's talking about justice, equality, welfare, access to care...welcome to
Barcelona...,,yawn. I can't wait for dinner and abstracts. The Jay Leno types
are back talking about stigma....etc....
Two years ago in Durban things were beginning regarding the international
access to treatment movement. On a positive note, it appears as thogh slowly
treatment and treatment programs are emerging in developing countries.
Community are starting to develop & grow programs. The ACTG is supposed to be
starting a clinical trials network in Africa. Promises from drug companies
have been made. Boerhinger Ingleheim agreed to supply free nevirapine for
mother to child prevention of transmission in Africa. Abbott is providing
money for a children's hospial in Romania. GSK & Merck have reduced drug
prices dramatically. Why couldn't these opening ceremonies address these
types of things. I guess that might be too controversial. I would find that
sort of thing much more interesting. How about an UPDATE 2000 to 2002.
Perhaps, we can never revisit the drama & magic of Durban; you can't go home
again. And I miss not being home for the 4th of July. Now, a cello player is
providing a very nice concert for the audience and everyone is holding lit
candles. This is a moving moment.
Peter Piot from the UNAIDS program is addressing the audience with the
audience still holding lit candles. The international AIDS movement has moved
to a stepped up level. We are moving to a higher level of addressing global
AIDS -- more money is being spent, there are more international activists
then ever before, the CEO of Daimler-Chrysler is giving money & resources.
Piot said drug companies have promised cheaper AIDS drugs. why are so few
Africans getting ART drugs.. the answers are aboit power & priorities, Piot
says. Treatment can save lives, but he is implying the governments of the
developing countries need to step up...its "political will". He says we need
three times more than we have now to fight AIDS-- $10 Billion. We need to
stick with Africa now. Finally, some inspiration. Assistance & loans are
needed to sustain the needs of these countries--education, the economy. We
are here to ignite leadership & fight unnegatotiably stigma, develop a
vaccine, deliver prevention & treatmeny full scale, we must find $10 Billion,
we must challenge conventional wisdom & deliver for our constituencies, Piot
said, and these are not negotiable. Piot is finished and inspiring. There are
a couple of Spanish government bureaucrats speaking now, yadah, yadah.....Now
the Princess of Spain is speaking to close the opening ceremony.....in
Spanish .. I can't understand a word.
Barcelona is a very nice city. I'm enjoying it. It's cosmopalitan, a big
sprawling city-- the beach, the restaurants, it's bustling. And I'm off for
the nite. Tomorrow the conference begins. goodnight.