BY SIRIMA EAMTAKO
NAME OF EVENT 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013)
ORGANISER International AIDS Society & Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS, University of Malaya
VENUE Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
WHEN June 30 – July 3, 2013
PAX Over 5000 delegates
The IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention is organised every two years by the International AIDS Society, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of its commitment in a global combat against HIV/AIDS this year.
The IAS conference is the world’s largest scientific meeting that focuses on latest developments in related HIV/AIDS research. Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the host destination for the IAS 2013 due to the Malaysian government’s understandings of HIV prevention and commitment to providing free HIV treatment to all citizens in need of antiretroviral therapy.
The IAS 2013 secretariat has also tagged Malaysia as convenient, affordable and safe, while Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) was said to be centrally located and within close proximity of a wealth of international-standard accommodation.
IAS 2013 local co-chair Prof. Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, who is also director of the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS and dean of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Malaya, said the co-chairs took about one year to prepare for the conference’s programming and fund-raising.
Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) general manager of sales and marketing, Ho Yoke Ping, said that the MyCEB team went to the IAS headquarters in Geneva prior to the conference to conduct a presentation about Malaysia’s “do and don’t” with culture and business protocol.
MyCEB also supported in organising the conference as well as the facilitating last-minute visa requests for foreign speakers.
During the conference, the entire KLCC was reserved and all sessions were held in-house. Hotels within immediate vicinity of KLCC were occupied by the conference delegates. As a protocol, each delegate had to wear a badge bearing an identity barcode for verification each time they entered the conference area.
Challenges and triumphs
Planning the conference programme was particularly challenging as Malaysia was the first country in Asia and the first Muslim country to host the IAS Conference, Prof. Adeeba said.
“People are less aware that Malaysia is a conference destination, but our strengths include international-standard convention centres and accommodation, food and culture,” she said. “A five-star hotel room costs less than US$300 a night, which is cheaper than a three-star hotel room in the US.”
Perception over distance and travel time were also some concerns that could deter delegates from attending, in comparison to IAS 2011 in Rome which attracted some 6500 delegates.
However, Prof. Adeeba said that the efficient IAS secretariat managed to execute a smooth conference this year and attracted over 5000 delegates despite targeting only 4000.
The highlight of IAS 2013 was the launch of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) updated global guidelines for antiretroviral therapy, and the conference programme entailed sessions related to it as well as topics that involved research on the cure of AIDS.
Another achievement of IAS 2013 was its environmentally-friendly initiatives. The conference used less printing materials and more online platforms, and any items bought to facilitate the event, such as massage chairs, were donated to local charitable organisations post-event.