Open Door Policy for Bangkok AIDS Conference
Response by the Conference
We understand that even with the efforts described above, the fees will be too high for some potential delegates. In recognition of this concern, the 2004 organisers have arranged for expanded online coverage of the Conference through partnerships with the Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kaisernetwork.org), Medscape (www.medscape.com), and Health & Development Networks (www.hdnet.org). To further expand the reach of the Conference to those unable to attend in person, these organisations will broadcast key sessions over the Internet and will provide additional resources to extend the reach of the Conference, including a daily newspaper written by a team of 55 developing country-based correspondents. In addition, some 1,500 journalists including more than 40 major broadcasters will cover the Conference in Bangkok.
Activists fume over cost of 'access for all' AIDS conference in Bangkok
Tuesday June 29, 2004
BANGKOK (AFP) - Activists railed over the 1,000-dollar registration fee for next month's largest-ever AIDS conference, claiming thousands of key voices on the pandemic would not be heard. The 15th International AIDS Conference expects up to 20,000 delegates in Bangkok for the July 11 to 16 event, which this year has the theme of "Access for All".
"It's access for all except if you're a poor person," said advocacy coordinator Karyn Kaplan of the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, one of hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) expected to attend. "It's one of the most expensive AIDS conferences to date, which is ironic given that this is in a developing country," she told AFP. "The reality is that access is still very limited." She said activists could protest by printing fake passes and to gather in large numbers to force their way in. She also urged delegates to place stickers over their own badges.
Organisers have slapped a 1,000-dollar price tag on registration after May 1, while Thai taxation pushes it to 1,250 dollars. Early registration had been 800 dollars and standard had been 900 dollars. The fee covers access to all conference sessions and copies of the related documents and reports. Accommodation and meals are not included. Nimit Tien-udom, director of Thailand's ACCESS Foundation, said NGOs had been at loggerheads with organisers for months over the cost. "We have tried many times to raise this point in committee meetings. If the registration price is lowered, we can have many more attendees... but they have not made any changes," he said.
Conference director Mats Ahnlund, of the International AIDS Society (IAS), acknowledged that the cost was high but said it was 50 dollars cheaper than the previous gathering in Barcelona, Spain, and it was no different from other medical conferences. "The IAS is small and we have to cover our costs. This is a not-for-profit event but we cannot subsidise it all," he told AFP. "I am sure they are concerned," he said of the activists.
IAS has allocated some 2,300 scholarships for people to attend, half of them from outside Thailand, while 3,000 Thai students have been invited at no charge, Ahnlund added. IAS is promoting a "global village" area on the fringes of the conference that will be free and open to the public, but Kaplan believes it is a ploy to sideline HIV-AIDS activists who are demanding greater accountability from their governments in the fight against AIDS. "It is hailed as a set-up where the community can gather, when in reality the important conversations are happening inside," she said.
The 15 million-dollar conference will bring together world leaders, scientists, activists and people living with HIV-AIDS.
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