Australia is called the Land Down Under for a reason: It’s far away from most everywhere. So organizers of the 20th International AIDS Conference to be held in Melbourne on 20 to 25 July say it’s no surprise that the anticipated attendance is about half the number of participants who attended the 2012 meeting in Washington, D.C.
On a media conference call today to brief journalists about the contents of the meeting, organizers said that about 8000 people have registered to date and that they expect a total of 12,000 will attend. “We still think it’s a good amount,” says Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, the international chair of the meeting. “I’m not disappointed, but I’m a little bit surprised. It’s very expensive to go there.” Barré-Sinoussi , who shared the Nobel Prize for her role in the discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS, stressed that in addition to increased numbers of delegates from Asia and the Pacific, Africa will have more attendees than in past years. A steep drop-off has occurred in participants from the United States. “It’s really a conference for the region,” she says.