In just over a month, the world?s largest AIDS conference will be held in Toronto, Canada. About 20-thousand people are expected to attend the 16th International AIDS Conference, also known as AIDS 2006. Dr. Helene Gayle is co-chair of AIDS 2006 and president of the International Aids Society.  From Toronto, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about some of the featured speakers at the event.

?We?re quite excited to have former presidents Mary Robinson, Bill Clinton, the Crown Prince of Norway (Mette-Marit), Bill and Melinda Gates, (actor) Richard Gere, as well as many other luminaries in the field of HIV and AIDS.?

Over the years, international AIDS conferences have grown beyond only scientific issues to community and social concerns as well. Dr. Gayle says, ?As the epidemic has evolved, we?ve recognized that to have a true comprehensive response it has to be a multi-disciplinary. Multi-faceted response. And therefore needs to involve people who are doing research, scientists doing biomedical research, but also people who are looking at behavioral research, economics, programmatic research and those who are providing services, whether its treatment, prevention, care, social support. So I think the conference has expanded in the same way that our response to the epidemic has expanded and has become a much mote inclusive meeting.?

She also says AIDS 2006, the theme of which is Time to Deliver, will stress the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. ?Today, with almost 50 percent of new infections occurring among women and girls, and in Africa we know that the impact is even greater, almost 60 percent of new infections, we must focus on the issues. Not only because of the impact that it?s having but because the risks of HIV in women are different,? she says. 

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