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: More than 5000 delegates
The IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention is organised every two years by the International AIDS Society, which celebrates 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 the latest developments in related HIV/AIDS researches. 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 its citizens in need of antiretroviral therapy.
Malaysia is also tagged by the IAS 2013 secretariat as convenient, affordable and safe while Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) is labeled as centrally located and within close proximity of a wealth of international-standard accommodation.
IAS 2013 local co-chair Prof Adeeba Kamarulzaman, who is also director of the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Malaya, said the co-chairs took about one year to prepare for the conference in both programming and raising funds.
Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) general manager of sales and marketing, Ho Yoke Ping, said the MyCEB team went to IAS headquarters in Geneva prior to the conference to do a presentation about Malaysia’s “dos and don’ts” in terms of culture and business protocol.
MyCEB also lent support through the organising of the conference and facilitating last-minute visa requests for foreign speakers.
During the conference the entire KLCC was reserved and all the sessions were held within the centre. Hotels within the immediate vicinity of KLCC were occupied by the conference delegates. As a protocol, each delegate must wear a badge bearing an identity barcode for verification each time they enter into the conference area.
Challenges and Triumphs
The planning of the conference programme was particularly challenging because Malaysia was the first country in Asia and the first Muslim country to host the IAS Conference, said Prof Kamarulzaman.
“People are less aware that Malaysia is a conference destination whereas our strengths include internationally-standard convention centre 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 times were also among concerns that might mar people’s decision to attend in comparison to the IAS 2011 in Rome which attracted some 6500 delegates. Prof Kamarulzaman said under the efficient IAS secretariat, the 2013 conference ran smoothly and attracted more than 5000 delegates although it initially targeted 4000 attendees.
The highlight of the IAS 2013 was the launch of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) updated global guidelines for antiretroviral therapy.
Another achievement of the IAS 2013 was the promoting of a green event by using less print materials and more online platforms. Any items bought to facilitate the conference such as massage chairs were donated to local charitable organisations post-event. m