Delivering the first in-person medical conference in the wake of the pandemic was always going to be tough, particularly when most delegates were front-line medical practitioners. Working closely with K.I.T. Group, the PCO appointed by EACS, was essential for the successful delivery of the event in a post-pandemic world.
Although the strategy was to run a hybrid event, creating confidence for delegates to attend an in-person experience was paramount. Building relationships and establishing new collaborations is one of the primary goals of the conference, which really can only be done effectively face-to-face. Running over four days, the event was packed with plenary and parallel sessions, as well as satellite symposia, e-Posters and an exhibition.
Being hosted in London reinforced the local community HIV and AIDS story. A specifically curated information board to profile the AIDS community in east London was a centre-piece of the exhibition.
For the first time the AIDS Memorial Quilt panels that pay tribute to those who lost their lives to the disease, were displayed all on one level in the Auditorium. Although a video was available to view on the conference website, seeing the display in person was an incredibly profound and moving experience for the in-person attendees, crystalising the reason why practitioners choose this field of research and clinical practice.
The 18th European AIDS Conference 2021 was a very different-looking conference. The hybrid conference running alongside the in-person event, although an exciting challenge, created scheduling and practical considerations. Each session needed two people chairing, one to manage the in-person event and the other the virtual.
The Covid protocols gave confidence for in-person attendees. Additional checks on the door for vaccination status or negative test results at point of entry, along with an emphasis social distancing, the wearing of masks, additional cleaning regimes and enhanced air handling provided reassurance.
Dr Sanjay Bhagani, President, EACS