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AIDS 2002 Conference to Provide Skill-Building Workshops - 2002-05-15

In July the 14th International AIDS Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain. About 15,000 people are expected to attend the world's largest AIDS meeting, but not all will be there to hear the latest scientific breakthroughs. Instead, many want to learn new skills to help slow the spread of the pandemic. The conference, also known as AIDS 2002, has a skills building program consisting of 74 workshops. Jenifer Johnson, coordinator of the program, says the goal is to translate knowledge into action.

"HIV in the world produces many, many, many needs," she said. "Needs that are always changing. And part of our work in the conference and outside of the conference is to respond to these needs, to respond very concretely to very specific needs that people have all over the world."

Ms. Johnson says the workshops bring together scientists, health care workers, activists and people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"Instead of it being a hierarchy, they're all put on the same level," she said. "It's just as important that laboratory scientists learn new skills as it is for people who are working in the community as sex workers to learn new skills. Everybody has a need."

She says it's a forum to allow people to share their expertise in the fight against HIV-AIDS.

"They can go back after they have learned that skill, they can go back to their setting, back to their home and actually put it into practice."

The skills building program became well established at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. It was the first time the conference was held in a developing country. Jenifer Johnson says organizers of the Barcelona event have learned from that experience.

"We must problem solve HIV," she said. "That's what working in HIV is all about. If it's scientific, if it's in the laboratory, or if it's in the streets of Brazil working with children who have HIV, we're all looking for ways to problem solve."

The 14th International AIDS Conference will be held from July 7-12.