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Awaiting the Durban declaration: Aids 2000 will be remembered


Breaking the silence surrounding the realities of Aids is the theme of Aids 2000, the international Aids conference to be held in Durban this week. But it is likely that Aids 2000 will be remembered more for the "Durban declaration": a document signed by 5 000 people testifying in their belief that HIV causes Aids.

The declaration followed the controversies surrounding President Thabo Mbeki's discussions with the so-called "Aids dissidents". Mbeki is scheduled to deliver the opening address at the Aids 2000 opening ceremony.

The hope is that Aids 2000 will see the announcement of breakthroughs in Aids treatment, drugs and management. There has also been speculation that it may be used as a platform to announce dramatic cuts in the price of Aids drugs.

Although the epidemic is a global problem, the siting of the conference and the fact that sub-Saharan Africa is home to most of the world's known Aids cases are likely to focus attention on the continent.

Aids 2000 is the 13th international Aids conference to be held since 1985 and the first to be held in Africa. It is fitting that this year's conference is being held in South Africa, a country with the fastest-known growing HIV epidemic.

The conferences are designed as a forum for people involved in all aspects of dealing with HIV to get together and discuss issues. It is considered the place to go to hear the latest news on the medical, social and ethical aspects of HIV.

This year more than 12 000 people are expected to attend the conference, which runs formally from July 9 to 15. Satellite sessions begin on July 7.

Some of the biggest names in the Aids world will be at the conference. High- profile attendees include:

* David Ho: Described as "a god in the Aids world" by one doctor, and voted Time Man of the Year in 1995 for his work relating to the virus.

* Anthony Fauci: Director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the pioneers in understanding how HIV destroys the body's immune system, among other advances.

* William Makgoba: President of the South African Medical Research Council and an internationally recognised scientist. He has played an important role in advancing local vaccine research and development.

* Geeta Gupta: President of the International Centre for Research on Women based in Washington, and a leading researcher on the health and social implications of Aids on women.

* Edwin Cameron: The South African acting Constitutional Court judge who publicly stated last year that he was HIV- positive.

* Hoosen Coovadia: Chair of the Aids 2000 conference and head of paediatrics at the University of Natal, and one of South Africa's most prominent Aids specialists.

The discussions go beyond medicine and science to include social, political and ethical issues surrounding the Aids epidemic. A community programme will be running in parallel with the scientific programme, and there are several satellite sessions including a joint conference hosted by M�d�cins sans Fronti�res and the Treatment Action Campaign on increasing access to drugs.


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Information in this article was accurate in July 7, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.