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  AIDS 2002 Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain July 7-12 2002
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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.