BY CURTIS TATE, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON -- The world's largest gathering of AIDS researchers, activists and policymakers will convene in the nation's capital this weekend amid rising optimism that a vaccine for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is within reach, and as more of the world's population gains access to testing and treatment.
However, the International AIDS Conference is also taking place in a city with a 3 percent HIV infection rate - equal to some of the world's worst-affected countries - and in a nation where the disease has a disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities.
The conference, held every two years, will bring together science, medicine, public policy and advocacy in one place to brainstorm the response to a global pandemic that's killed 30 million worldwide over three decades, including 600,000 Americans. New breakthroughs in research will be announced, as will new efforts by governments and organizations to reduce the spread of HIV, to treat those who have it, and to work, eventually, toward a vaccine and a cure.
"More than 5,000 people a day die of the disease. This is still an emergency," said Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-based provider of HIV and AIDS treatment. "The war against AIDS has not been won."