How Tourisme Montréal Helped AIDS Conference Reach Its Full Potential

A Sponsored Message From Tourisme Montréal

Author: Casey Gale       

delegates at AIDS conference 2022 in Montreal

The 24th International AIDS Conference welcomed 8,000 people in person at the Palais des congrès de Montréal and another 1,000 for the virtual event online. (Eva Blue/Tourisme Montréal)

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.

In 2022, the city hosted the event once more, now in its 24th edition, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal and virtually July 29–Aug. 2. And this time around, Montréal was in a better position than ever to support the event in getting its theme of “re-engage and follow the science” across the globe: In May 2022, Tourisme Montréal launched a sustainable tourism intervention plan, including a social legacy program that encourages the development of responsible, sustainable, and regenerative tourism through events. This medical meeting aimed to meet two of the destination’s sustainable tourism intervention plan goals: Fostering the scientific development of environmental, social, and economic knowledge, and maximizing the socio-economic benefits of the visitor economy. But accomplishing this required teamwork: Tourisme Montréal, the Palais des congrès de Montréal, and event organizers worked together to build an event that would have the biggest possible impact on the destination and the community the event serves. Tourisme Montréal and the Palais des congrès de Montréal acted as facilitators by helping create a local committee to assist Montréal’s local co-chair Jean-Pierre Routy, M.D., in amplifying the benefits generated by the conference. The committee then connected Dr. Routy with community leaders and rallied them toward their shared goals.

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.

Palais des congrès de Montréal nighttime exterior

Tourisme Montréal, the Palais des congrès de Montréal, and organizers of the International AIDS Conference worked together to build an event that would have a big impact in Montréal. (Photo courtesy of Palais des congrès de Montréal)

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.”

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