THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE
This year, the International Aids Society (IAS) conference took place from 18-21 July once again virtually. Last year I spoke of the “insanity” of virtual conferencing. A year on, as virtual is now normal, I want to dwell less on what we’ll be missing by not coming together physically, but what we can gain through digital collaboration.
Not everyone in the IAS community could have flown to Germany and stayed for the whole conference. A virtual event can democratise participation in innovation, and reduces inequalities as much as distance, responding with resilience to a changing reality. And so the virtual medium arguably reinforces the message and purpose of the event. Innovating to respond to changing needs. Collaborating to close gaps to access and inclusion. Creating dialogue between diverse stakeholders and communities. Let’s embrace this as we prepare to meet virtually once again.
The year 2021 doesn’t just mark a whole year into one pandemic, but 40 years since the first documented cases of AIDS. We have made extraordinary scientific and social advances during this period. Without the science, millions more children would have been born with HIV.
Many millions of years of life would have been lost to people living with HIV (PLHIV), who, with access to testing, care and treatment, can now expect a normal lifespan. Ensuring those years are lived to their fullest, and that science responds to the changing needs of people, remains an important focus of our work today and tomorrow. And it’s why IAS is one of my favourite conferences. Connecting science with policy, practice with people, it is an important catalyst to these outcomes. Improving options to improve lives, together.