Bangkok 2004 AIDS Conference

Activist Reports on the Community and the Political

Activists railed over the 1,000-dollar registration fee for this largest-ever International AIDS Conference; thousands of key voices on the pandemic will not be heard.  "It's access for all except if you're a poor person," said advocacy coordinator Karyn Kaplan of the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, one of hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attending.  "It's one of the most expensive AIDS conferences to date, which is ironic given that this is in a developing country," she told AFP. "The reality is that access is still very limited."  The 15th International AIDS Conference recorded up to 19,000 delegates in Bangkok for the July 11 to 16 event, which this year has the [ironic] theme of "Access for All".   read more 


Thai AIDS Treatment Activists and Allies Marched to Protest and Demand Accountability and Action on AIDS

Community March    July 11, 2004   Bangkok, Thailand   The Opening Day of the XV International AIDS Conference

Memorandum was delivered to PM Thaksin and international political leaders.
The international community has an opportunity to change the course of history by using HIV treatment programs to bolster prevention efforts and improve overall health systems throughout the developing world. Treatment and care for 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS and comprehensive, effective prevention cannot wait.  We demand real access for all!   read more

for Thai version:   

Sunday, July 11, 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand  (The Opening day of the XV International AIDS Conference)
The theme of the XV International AIDS Conference theme is “Access for All.”   We, Thai people living with HIV/AIDS and NGO allies, send a call to action to the international community to join a movement at the upcoming International AIDS Conference (Bangkok, July 2004) demanding accountability from heads of states, agencies, and individuals obstructing or failing to effectively address the gaps and inequities in HIV/AIDS treatment access, and demand real access for all.


*  3 million people died of AIDS in 2003 but it’s STILL BUSINESS AS USUAL worldwide

*  6 million people of the 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide need anti-retroviral treatment NOW – but only 400,000 have access


More than 5.5 million People Living With HIV/AIDS are without access to treatment because:

*  National governments refuse to prioritize the fight against AIDS, and refuse to transform their rhetoric into concrete economic and political action;

*  Rich donor countries that have broken their promises to spend $10 billion annually fighting global AIDS by 2005;

*  International agencies have not made good on the promise to fill the deadly gap in access to treatment. By 2005, by the most optimistic estimates, only 240,000 additional people, or 4% of the total need, will access HIV/AIDS treatment through financing from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM)-- the “principle funding vehicle” for the WHO’s ‘3 x 5’ treatment access initiative;


Thai people living with HIV/AIDS and NGO allies, successfully lobbied and worked with our government to produce generic antiretroviral drugs cheaply and developed comprehensive, community-based care programs so that universal access could be effectively delivered.

*  Today, through a government program aiming to treat 50,000 people by 2005, we have already seen AIDS-related mortality drop by over 50%


*  PLWHA around the world are struggling to prevent national treatment programs from duplicating the social and economic inequities that put marginalized people, including rural people, women, children, men who have sex with men, and drug users last in line for life saving treatment;

*  PLWHA around the world are threatened by ideologues attempting to thwart access to basic HIV prevention tools, particularly for the most vulnerable groups including women, men who have sex with men, migrant workers, prisoners, and injecting drug users;

*  PLWHA face human rights violations in the form of repressive drug wars and policies, although 1 in 3 new infections outside Africa are the result of sharing of injecting equipment, and needle exchange has been proven to save lives without increasing rates of drug use;


*  PLWHA around the world face bilateral donor programs that force treatment and prevention programs to abandon science and best practice, blocking life saving HIV prevention efforts, and blocking purchase of quality, low cost generic medicines;

*  PLWHA around the world face barriers to access to affordable generic medicines as a result of regional and bilateral trade agreements with the U.S., undermining national sovereignty and capacity to address public health priorities such as HIV/AIDS;


*  Even in Thailand, sometimes called the “next Brazil” in terms of treatment victories, where generic HIV/AIDS drugs are as cheap as USD $0.96 per day, deadly foreign policies threaten to undermine access to quality generic medicine, through efforts such as the U.S. government’s proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Thailand.

*  Access for all in Thailand is still not equitable; undocumented migrants, ethnic minorities denied citizenship, injecting drug users, prisoners and others still face non-medical exclusion criteria and social and economic barriers including health-care setting-based discrimination, which prevent them from accessing ARV.

*  Activists in Thailand are demanding drug users worldwide get access to comprehensive prevention and treatment, not the threat of government sanctioned killing and unlawful detention;


by the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) and the community of Thai AIDS Activists

Chiranuch Premchaiporn
Advocacy Team Leader, AIDS Access Foundation

see Thai website >   

read Memorandum to international political leaders


Too ironic for words....

Leadership Summit at XV International AIDS Conference Cancelled Due to Lack of Attendees   
July 06, 2004

Thailand's government has all-but-cancelled a meeting on HIV/AIDS for national leaders that was planned for July 12 on the sidelines of the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, because all but one of the invited leaders declined to attend, Reuters reports (Reuters, 7/5). The leadership summit, titled "Leadership on HIV/AIDS," was slated as an event for leaders of HIV/AIDS-affected countries and donor nations to meet and develop strategies for combating HIV/AIDS (Bangkok Post, 7/5). The leaders of 13 countries and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan were expected to attend the summit, which was scheduled to be hosted by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). Charal Trinvuthiphong, director general of Thailand's Disease Control Department, said that a lunch program for leaders and people with HIV/AIDS also was cancelled. Invitations to the summit were sent to the leaders of Botswana, Brazil, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Canada, China, India, Russia and the European Commission, as well as Annan (Bangkok Post, 7/5). Thailand Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sihasak Phuangketkeow said that instead of holding the summit, Annan and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni plan to meet with people living with HIV/AIDS on the opening day of the conference, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Sihasak said that leaders of the other nations were "not comfortable with traveling here at this time" .

The almost total lack of a political presence from the industrialised countries at this meeting is a disgrace.

The Bush Administration cut the number of U.S. scientists who can attend, announcing in March that the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be allowed to send only 20 scientists each -- compared to 236 U.S. government scientists sent to the last international conference two years ago in Barcelona, Spain. The U.S. reduced its funding for the conference from $3.6 million to less than half a million. Many programs at Bangkok had to be reorganized or cancelled, as the scientists will not be there to present their information. These cuts reflect right-wing attacks; in May 2004, five Republicans in Congress complained that the 2002 Barcelona meeting had 777 presentations that mentioned condoms, "compared to 16 for 'faithfulness' or 'fidelity' and 74 for 'abstinence.' On June 16 the CDC issued the Bush Administration's new AIDS sex education prevention guidelines which must include information on the "lack of effectiveness of condom use." The new guidelines also require teaching abstinence in all sex education prevention.

Sunday  Opening Ceremonies    

Thai Prime Minister Spoke Lies      Conference Organizers Minimizes People with AIDS       .

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was "silently heckled" by AIDS advocates during his speech on Sunday's Opening Ceremony. Advocates for injection drug users held up posters during the speech that said, "No more lies" and "Thai government drug policy = drop dead," protesting the Thai government's "war on drugs." The Prime Minister also came under attack by the final speaker at the Opening Ceremony. Paisan Suwannawong, an HIV-positive Thai delegate to the conference, spoke eloquently about his former experience as an injection drug user and the human rights of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Paisan, from the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, was the only Person with AIDS speaking at the Opening Ceremonies. Unconscionably, he was positioned last to speak in the three-hour program.  Consequently, of the 11,000 people seated at the beginning of the Opening Ceremony, there were only about 100 people left in the Arena to hear Paisan's speech.  (Equally unconscionable, all of the dignitaries left well before the end of the ceremonies.)  The placement of Paisan's Speech was deliberately placed as to minimize political criticism, while minimizing People with AIDS.  Paisan spoke to those left in the audience about the Thai government's brutality and neglect with Intravenous Drug Users.  He told of the government's "war on drugs" having killed more than 3,000 IDUs last year, and adding that neither harm reduction nor treatment existed for Drug Users in Thailand. The government had cut this year's AIDS budget even though it "intended" to double the amount of people treated. Thaksin LIED with his accounting of people receiving healthcare: only 30,000 Thais are presently being treated, and there are 200,000 Thais presently in need of medical treatment, not the imagined 50,000 claimed by the Prime Minister.  

Later in the week, after days of presentations referring to the embarrassing treatment of Paisan in the Opening Ceremonies, activists pointedly demanded to chagrined Conference Organizers a public apology for the way they minimized a Person with AIDS at the Opening Ceremony, and demanded that Paisan speak again at the Closing Ceremony, before Nelson Mandela. Even one of the NGO Conference Co-Sponsors, bungling GNP+, admitted to being "naive." Activist demands were acceded by the Conference, the Thai Minister of Health apologized and Paisan spoke again at the Conference Closing.

But the trend had been set, even before the Opening Ceremonies.  This International AIDS Conference was exemplar in community tokenism.  Scholarships this year were awarded by the Conference predominately to NGOs and very few Persons with AIDS  (the PWA Lounge was sparsely attended).  It was as if People with AIDS can be "represented" but not "participate."  This is a backward institutionalized trend that portends to be more prevalent in the future, and contrary to every advancement in PWA empowerment.  

The lesson that policy work demands the full participation of affected people, and the need for affected communities to be at the center of the responses to AIDS, seems to have been forgotten by our leaders. 
 -- Dennis Altman,  Jonathan Mann Memorial Lecturer

Jon Cohen on the Shocking Opening Ceremony
The challenge right now in the whole world of HIV and AIDS is to commit to action, long-term commitment. Getting treatment to people is a start, but continuing to get the treatment to people is the real challenge. It’s not just getting drugs into people for a year, it’s doing it for their lives. And so I saw this as a symbolic moment by the leaders who didn’t even have the commitment to stay through the ceremony, and people followed the leaders.

How Activists are Supposed to Behave :  IAS Freedom of Expression Statement  

Thailand deployed 5,000 police for security to some 19,000 delegates during the conference

DONORS LIES KILL : The U.S. and Other G7 Countries Must Keep Their Funding Promises.
AIDS activists throw red paint on a poster of President Bush and other G7 Leaders at the International AIDS Conference. For years wealthy country governments have refused to pay the billions needed to fund the fight against AIDS. The countries collectively share responsibility for the needless deaths of countless thousands because of their inaction.

Activists Protest Randall Tobias, the United States Global AIDS Coordinator.
Tobias has given his critics fodder by emphasizing abstinence and faithfulness as effective ways of preventing AIDS while downplaying the role of condoms, and by failing to embrace generic medications as substitutes for more expensive patented brands.


Free Trade Impact on Thai Treatment Programme 
People's lives before commercial interest: The U.S. - Thailand FTA threatens HIV treatment 

How Bush’s Policy Punishes Women Worldwide 

Pfizer chief heckled at AIDS conference.  < includes right-wing capitalist brats from Bureaucrash counter-protesting
Protesters staged a noisy demonstration during a speech by the head of a multinational drug company. Pfizer chief executive Hank McKinnell had just begun a speech defending pharmaceutical copyright patents on AIDS medication. Around 100 demonstrators marched into the auditorium delivering BODY BAGS, demanding patents be lifted to allow for cheaper, generic treatments.

Pharmaceutical Zaps    Gilead    Abbott    Bristol-Myers-Squibb    Pfizer    Roche      

   .    Thailand's Generic Fixed-Dose GPO-VIR.

Communities at Risk Migrant Workers  and Testing  HIV Treatment Excludes Drug Users Sex and Condoms
Homosexuality and the link to HIV has now been replaced by a frightening silence,,whereby most national and international organizations do not acknowledge homosexuality at all.
       Tuberculosis is the leading AIDS-related killer, perhaps responsible for half of all AIDS-related deaths.
       In some parts of Africa, 75 percent of people with HIV also have TB.  Nelson Mandela returns to the Conference.  READ MORE   

       Chinese AIDS Activist Jailed ; AIDS Orphans Harassed and Supporters Detained

       Community  Leadership    Myanmar Absent from Conference    
.  -  more coming soon    

top of page

The Nation (Thai English language newspaper) July 2, 2004
"Government puts on more caring face as Aids conference nears.".
To counter the high HIV infection rate among intravenous drug users -- as well as foreign accusations of human-rights violations
during the country's war on drugs -- the government will step up its harm-reduction programme to help this group of people overcome
problems related to substance abuse as well as HIV.
       link to complete news article

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin's characterization of drug users as "patients" is at best a self-delusion.  The PM cannot on the one hand call for humane drug treatment and on the other issue arrest quotas to police with a long record of abuse.  While low-level offenders are typically diverted into treatment, most of them only enter the criminal justice system after having had drugs planted on them or been forced to sign a false confession.  All of them spend time in detention while they are "evaluated" to see whether treatment (if you can call it that) is warranted.  Detention facilities offer no methadone and no information about HIV.  Nearly half of incarcerated drug users in Thailand are HIV-positive.
Calling drug users "patients" in the Thai context serves only to legitimize massive human rights violations against alleged traffickers, including extrajudicial killing, improper blacklisting, etc. The Thailand harm reduction task force is clearly window dressing, established as a pre-conference publicity stunt, compared to the massive resources that are committed to other, repressive aspects of drug policy.  None of the Global Fund grants awarded to the Thai gov so far contains any targets for increasing harm reduction for drug users.

The cooptation of harm reduction/risk reduction rhetoric by the drug control establishment is not unique to Thailand and poses long-term strategic challenges.

"...activists are to be honored. Activists are my true friends. They stand by my side when I face discrimination and injustice. They have the courage to stand up to those in power who use their positions for their own benefit. They are the ones who can help provide a way forward to fight AIDS and injustice in this world..."   -- Paisan Suwannawong, Opening Ceremony


Thai Government and International AIDS Conference Organizers Squelch Thai Activist Leader's Opening Ceremony Speech...Placed LAST on Agenda

Paisan Suwannawong, director of the Thai Treatment Action Group (TTAG), who spoke from the perspective of a drug user living with HIV, was placed last on an agenda that included Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and even Miss Universe. As a result of the calculated decision to have Paisan speak last, after most delegates had left the ceremonies, most did not have an opportunity to hear this important address chronicling his life under the Thai crackdown on drug users.

"Most of the time, I did not have any drugs on me," said Paisan. "The police would plant drugs on me and force me to confess and beat me if I did not sign their document...Finally I got off drugs 13 years ago...I decided to go to a 'TC' or 'therapeutic community.' That is how I found out how I got HIV."

Paisan went on to tell the conference that injection drug users (IDUs) are the only group in Thailand with a 50% prevalence of HIV infection, a rate that has been without improvement for fifteen years.

"Yet there has been no effective response from the government," he continued. "Even though the Thai government says its current policy is to treat drug users as 'patients' not 'criminals,' it is still illegal to be a drug user," Paisan told the conference. "There are many harm reduction interventions which have been proven to help IDUs stay free of HIV, including clean needles and methadone. We need those means of prevention in place NOW! And we need access to treatment NOW!"     

    Paisan Suwannawong speeches

top of page

see also:

Memorandum : Accountability and Action to Stop AIDS Now!

Leadership Statement on Injecting Drug Use and HIV/AIDS . download pdf
Please find attached the adopted version of the Leadership Statement on Injecting Drug Use and HIV/AIDS,
adopted in Bangkok by the leadership panel on injecting drug use.

BANGKOK DECLARATION   July 11, 2004 . download pdf.
People Living with HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific region today unveiled the "Bangkok Declaration"
A powerful charter of demands that urges national governments, political parties, UN, bi and multilateral organisations
and others to initiate immediate and concrete steps of empowerment so that their involvement in the responses to the
epidemic can be meaningful. "Without the well-being and empowerment of PLWHA, Greater involvement of People
Living with HIV/AIDS can only be a pipe dream," they said. They called for specific action in areas such as policy
and decision making, access to treatment and support services, and social and economic empowerment.

Global AIDS and theology of a few.
At the recent 15th International AIDS Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, it was evident that theological taboos have contributed
to the escalating HIV/AIDS crisis. At a time when more than 40 million worldwide are infected, with nearly 50 percent women,
the religious roots of this disease must be examined to determine how the theological thinking of some have caused widespread
harm to many.
   read more

Sex, lies and AIDS Conferences
by Shaun Mellors

Community Rapporteur


Thai activist background:

World AIDS Day 2001 Thailand Report


Global Fund Meeting in Chiang Mai "You Talk, We Die"

Thailand deports HIV-positive Burmese

In Thailand, Patient Activism is Crucial to Expanding Treatment    Médecins Sans Frontières
In December 1999, over 300 people with HIV/AIDS demonstrated outside the Public Health Ministry for three days, for a compulsory license to allow it to make generic versions of the ARV didanosine (ddI). It was the first time in Thailand that HIV positive people had braved stigmatisation to stage public demonstrations and it proved to be a watershed event.   

Advances in Thailand often due to AIDS activism    Médecins Sans Frontières   
Activist support drew attention to the right of Thailand to produce generic antiretrovirals.3 Six generic antretrovirals are now available, with one triple regimen costing US$27 per month per patient. A demonstration on World AIDS Day, 2001, by more than 1,000 Thai people with HIV/AIDS in front of government house, demanded that the government increase access further by including antiretroviral treatment in a new universal health insurance scheme.

see other website materials:

Official Bangkok Conference Website        see coverage on
The Correspndent   Daily Newspaper of Conference

ACT UP/ Paris

The Nation . Thai English Language Newspaper

Youth and HIV .


Thailand: Drug War Darkens AIDS Success  . Human Rights Watch
July 8, 2004 . Thailand’s brutal anti-drug crackdown is jeopardizing its human rights record and its success against HIV/AIDS,
Human Rights Watch said in a new report released ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok from July 11-16.
A government anti-drug campaign resulting in as many as 3,000 killings has driven drug users underground and away from lifesaving
HIV prevention services

HIV/AIDS, Prisoners, Drugs Users and the Law
    Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Rates of HIV infection among injection drug users and among prisoners are very high in many countries, .
and their human rights are routinely violated. This satellite conference will examine prevention and treatment
strategies, as well as human rights and public health imperatives for the wider implementation of these strategies

Breaking Down Barriers: Lessons on Providing HIV Treatment to Injection Drug Users    Open Society Institute .
Breaking Down Barriers categorically refutes negative assumptions about IDUs’ ability and desire to be treated for HIV infection. .
It also presents examples of innovative HIV treatment programs for drug users in a wide variety of countries, including Argentina,
Brazil, France, Hong Kong, Russia, Spain, and the United States.    
see also newsletter

Central and Eastern European Harm Reduction Network (CEE-HRN) .

Thai and U.S. AIDS Activists Against Bilateral Trade Deal .
Access to Affordable Generic Medicines in Jeopardy
HealthGap Press Release .

Cheap AIDS drugs to take spotlight at Bangkok conference  
. see more on  Aegis
Agence France-Presse - May 26, 2004

AIDS discrimination in Asia  
 download pdf   from APN+
Stigma and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS is seemingly entrenched in many areas across the world..
A report published recently by the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+) "AIDS Discrimination in Asia"
suggests 26% of people living with HIV experience some degree of stigma and discrimination in the community. The study
also found women experience significantly more stigma than men, including twice the levels of violence. This raises the spectre
of a strong gender component to stigma.

You and AIDS: HIV/AIDS Portal for Asia Pacific  (UNAIDS)

The next International AIDS Conference 2006 will be in Toronto Canada
Canada is trying to justify newly-implemented *mandatory* (ie, forced) HIV testing for immigrants and asylum seekers:.   HIV testing is supposed to be based on an informed choice.
Getting tested when you are fleeing from your country for political and economic reasons is probably not the best time to do it.
Having it forced on you cannot be a good thing, to say the least. We must denounce mandatory testing
at borders and other discriminatory policies. This is simply pseudo-humanitarian public relations
to cover up a bad policy

       search for additional News on the Bangkok Conference on  yahoo news  and  google news 

see also:

1989 Montreal AIDS Conference   When PWAs First Sat at the High Table 

In 1989, ACT UP and its Canadian counterparts, AIDS Action Now! and Réaction-SIDA, stormed the Fifth International AIDS Conference in Montreal. Up until that June day, the International AIDS Conferences were a members-only event for the AIDS establishment, a chance for scientists to hobnob with their fellow wizards while dispensing wisdom and press releases to beleaguered doctors and a fawning press. PWAs were presented mainly as abstractions, their lives reduced to statistics on spreadsheets, their needs and desires mere sidelights to the noble pursuit of science. Of course, if they wished to make their presence more concrete, they were welcome to do so, for a $500 registration fee. And then came the Montreal AIDS Conference, a ragtag group of 300 protesters brushing past the security guards in the lobby of the Palais de Congress, the fleet of "Silence=Death" posters gliding up the escalator to the Opening Ceremony or our chants thundering throughout the cavernous hall. There we were, the uninvited guests, taking our rightful place at the heart of the conference. From that point on in the crisis, researchers would have to make extra room at the table for PWAs and their advocates.   READ MORE

2000 DURBAN AIDS Conference

2002 Barcelona AIDS Conference