The Conference Must Go On

For the VIII International AIDS Conference, the Participation of AIDS Patients Is More Important Than Observing U.S. Travel Restrictions

Community Health Organizations

In addition to younger researchers, others with an interest in the conference may not be able to afford the expense.

"I would guess that one of the groups very strongly affected would be community health organizations often concerned with treating AIDS patients," says Jed D. Kolko '92, a member of the Boston chapter of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

"Many people who could use the information at the conference will have poor access to it."

"This is a missed opportunity for local activists to participate in the proceedings," says Thomas McNaught, a spokesperson for the AIDS Action Committee, a New England community-based AIDS service organization. "It is also a blow to people with AIDS who live in Boston who can't afford to go to the conference in Amsterdam and participate in the formal and ancillary proceedings."


The committee will still send members to the conference, McNaught says, but will not be able to send as many as it had hoped.

Citing a concern with travel costs, organizers say that while travel by smaller community organizations may be difficult or impossible, they will encourage them to take part in the conference and hope that they will still be able to play an important role.

"We hope that even those who cannot personally attend or participate will provide their support, so that we remain engaged," Mann writes in a letter sent to approximately 1300 community health organizations across the country.

But if such conferences still have to be held abroad in the future, says Paul A. Volberding, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, fewer and fewer Americans will have the opportunity to attend them.

Research at Full Capacity

While Mann acknowledges that high travel costs could lower the number of Harvard and other U.S.-based researchers who attend the conference, he says that several steps have been taken to ensure that AIDS research in this country goes ahead at full capacity.

Mann says that four scientists at Harvard who were representing their respective "tracks" of research for the conference now have Dutch counterparts who they will work closely with in planning research presentations.

"This is a practical illustration that the commitment is not going to change for Harvard researchers--all of them," he says.

Also important, says Mann, is that a larger proportion of researchers from developing countries will be in attendance at the conference. While much of AIDS research goes on in the U.S., these countries will have an opportunity to showcase their efforts and receive encouragement.

Still, organizers lament the lost opportunity to display Harvard's outstanding scientific facilities and the facilities of the greater Boston area.