HONG KONG: When the International AIDS Society chose Bangkok, Thailand, as the setting for its 15th international conference last week, it intended to draw attention to the epidemic's effect on Asia.
But protests from political activists threatened to overshadow the main message of "Access for All."
"Some people interpreted 'access' very narrowly," said Jill Mortensen, who is SVP of Asia- Pacific healthcare and MD of Weber Shandwick's Hong Kong office, which handled the PR. "Some of the activists turned that into a very narrow focus of access to drugs."
But at the same time, Mortensen noted, it became clear that conference organizers wanted WS to promote the issues as much as the conference.
The PR team tried to prepare for as many pitfalls as possible, Mortensen said, but they still arose, such as hotels that discriminated against HIV-positive guests. "That's the last thing organizers wanted to happen because the point of hosting the conference in Asia was to reduce the stigma," she said, adding that organizers tried to use the incidents to spark dialogue.