In 1989, Montréal served as the host city for the 5th International AIDS Conference. The event, put on by the International AIDS Society, was hugely influential for AIDS/HIV activists — an estimated 300 individuals had the opportunity to protest during the opening ceremony, both to demand more government involvement in the epidemic and to increase the public’s awareness about the realities of living with AIDS.
Tourisme Montréal and Palais des congrès de Montréal’s partnership with the conference yielded remarkable results: The event, attended by 8,000 people in person and 1,000 virtually, focused on five key steps in ending the HIV epidemic — presenting evidence, learning from COVID-19 and HIV, addressing evidence and implementation gaps, moving evidence to implementation, and supporting the next generation of HIV scientists and clinicians — and featured vitally important sessions such as “Trans Inclusion in National HIV Policy and Planning” and “Responding to the Virus: Advances in HIV Immunology,” led by top experts in the field.
The event led to a Canadian government-wide response: It announced $17.9 million to increase access to HIV testing in hard-to-reach populations, as well as a reinvestment of $15 million with UNAIDS and a commitment to working toward modernizing the criminal justice system’s response to HIV non-disclosure with the goal of eradicating stigma.
“The AIDS 2022 Conference fostered exchanges, dialogue, and understanding between various key communities involved in the fight against HIV, as well as those working to combat stigmatization and advocate for the vulnerable,” said Bertrand Lebouché, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University and Canadian Research Information System/Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research mentorship chair in innovative clinical trials for HIV. “It reminded us of the importance of the issues of justice, equity, and quality of life for people affected by HIV, which should transcend our scientific activities.”