Notes From a Conference Veteran


Helene Gayle, MD, MPH, President and CEO, CARE
shares her thoughts from the ground at theXVII International
AIDS Conference in
Mexico City.

The International AIDS conferences have been a
running timeline for the response to the epidemic and a marker for evolution in
my own career, and this week's International AIDS Conference is one of the
biggest – almost 25,000 delegates.
I remember the first International AIDS
Conference, in 1985 in
as a gathering of a few hundred people, mostly scientists, just coming to grips
with a new and baffling disease.

Over the intervening years, the conference has come to
represent a much broader group of people engaged in this struggle – as we've
come to understand that we cannot fight AIDS without taking into account the
social and economic factors that drive the epidemic.

Longtime veterans of these meetings sometimes forget what a
powerful experience it can be for those attending for the first time. Especially for people living with HIV and
AIDS, and members of hard-hit communities, it's incredibly empowering to be
among thousands of others dedicating their lives to the cause. Just meeting my CARE colleagues from around
the world, who work day and night fighting the epidemic in their home
countries, gives me a renewed sense of energy for this work. They represent for me the hope that is at the
heart of this conference.


Notes From a Conference Veteran image 1

Dr. Helene Gayle, President and CEO, CARE USA, speaking at the 2008 AIDS conference in Mexico City.

Photo credit: CARE/Rick Perera