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San Francisco and Oakland to host AIDS 2020

July 6, 2020 - July 11, 2020

AIDS 2020
The International AIDS Society (IAS) has announced that San Francisco, California, in partnership with nearby Oakland, will host the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020). 

To find the best host for each International AIDS Conference, the IAS conducts an extensive, open-bid process that begins 18 months before a decision is made. For AIDS 2020, we engaged more than 20 cities across the world, starting in 2016.

Our process involves an extensive evaluation that determines each city’s ability to house the meeting and its delegates, commitment to supporting scientific research and implementation, and inclusion of civil society and communities living with HIV in their local response. Each city is required to represent a cross-section of policymakers, scientific researchers and civil society as part of the bid.

It is always our preference to represent different geographies in hosting the International AIDS Conference. For many years, we were fortunate to identify willing government and community partners in resource-limited settings that allowed us to host the meeting while maintaining our commitment to access for people around the globe. For AIDS 2020, only cities in the global North completed a bid application. Even after direct engagement from IAS staff and site visits to potential hosts in the global South, we did not receive any applications.

This is understandable. Being selected as a host city for the International AIDS Conference is not a reward; it is a recognition that there is something particularly unique and challenging about the epidemic in that setting. It is a commitment by conference organizers and local partners to shine a light on strengths and weaknesses in the response. For a variety of reasons, including political climate, not every country is willing to make this commitment.

previous conference sites were chosen to directly challenge political and social norms. AIDS 2020 is no exception.


The leadership demonstrated by the State of California in bidding for AIDS 2020 is unparalleled. We received 33 letters of support from local AIDS organizations, local key population networks, leading activists and political leaders, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Governor of California, and the leaders of the State Legislature’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus. Each of these leaders committed themselves to supporting the mission of the conference.

Additionally, San Francisco has agreed to waive the cost of the conference venue to ensure affordable access to the meeting for delegates from around the world. Local partners are also helping to secure low-cost accommodation by partnering with universities, hotels and hostels.

In December 2017, the IAS’s Governing Council selected San Francisco and Oakland as the joint hosts of AIDS 2020 because we are concerned about the retreat from executive leadership on AIDS in the US. The US Government plays a vitally important role in addressing the epidemic both globally and domestically, and yet, year after year, we see attempts to dismantle and de-fund these programmes. In its bid, the State of California and the cities of San Francisco and Oakland have jointly shown their willingness to resist these changes in partnership with conference organizers. 

This is not a time to shy away from engaging on AIDS in the US. We believe holding AIDS 2020 in the Bay Area, a global capital of AIDS activism, will send a powerful message to all those threatening to undo the progress of the past three decades and provide support to those living with HIV and fighting to protect global AIDS funding.

Having the conference in the US in 2020 will provide a powerful reminder not only of the extraordinary return on US investments in global AIDS programmes, but also an opportunity to work together to demand an end to discriminatory immigration policies and call for new investments in HIV research. 
Read more about the search and selection process here.


It was in San Francisco that a mysterious disease, later identified as AIDS, first emerged onto the public radar as a major issue in the early 1980s. When the city hosted the 6th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 1990), AIDS was well on its way to becoming the main cause of death of Americans aged 25 to 44, with San Francisco seen as an epicentre. By 1995, the city had the highest percentage of people infected with HIV in the US, and by far, most were gay or bisexual men. 

AIDS 2020 returns to a very different San Francisco. It was one of the very first cities to embrace the UN 90-90-90 targets: to get 90% of HIV-positive people tested, 90% of those onto treatment, and 90% of those to having a fully suppressed virus.

Although Oakland is fewer than 7 kilometres from San Francisco, different social and economic conditions in several East and West Oakland neighbourhoods have contributed to notable racial/ethnic inequities in the HIV burden.

In recent years, the profiles of the HIV epidemics in San Francisco and Oakland have become similar. Historically, the two cities had different HIV epidemics and different resources with which to address them. The experiences of these cities parallel those of other settings in the global North and South, and afford an opportunity to examine all the ways in which different contexts affect HIV epidemic trajectories and responses. 

AIDS 1990 witnessed one of the most extraordinary moments in the history of AIDS activism: hundreds of activists joined together to demand an end to discriminatory immigration policies and major new investments in HIV research. The return of the International AIDS Conference to the US for AIDS 2020 will serve as a powerful reminder not only of the extraordinary return on US investments in global AIDS programmes, but also that AIDS is not over.
Read the full story here.


AIDS 2020 will take place on 6-10 July 2020, 30 years after the event was held there at the height of the epidemic in the United States.

“San Francisco is an inseparable part of the story of HIV/AIDS,” Democratic Leader 
Nancy Pelosi said. “It is fitting and deeply inspiring that advocates, researchers and survivors will return to the Bay Area for the 2020 International AIDS Conference.”

“The Bay Area has long been at the forefront of the AIDS epidemic,” US Congresswoman
Barbara Lee said. “While San Francisco and Oakland emerged as an early epicentre of the crisis, these cities have also been a hub for AIDS activism, research and community support.”

“It is long overdue that the conference returns to the San Francisco and Oakland area,” 
Anton Pozniak, IAS President-Elect and AIDS 2020 International Chair, said. “The partnership of San Francisco and Oakland hosting AIDS 2020 serves as an apt metaphor for the global effort to end HIV – working together across political and social divides to achieve our goal of ending this pandemic.”

“Oakland is just across the bay from San Francisco,” 
Marsha Martin, DSW, Community Convener of the Fast Track Cities-Get Screened Oakland and Coordinating Director of the Global Network of Black People Working in HIV, added. “However, our epidemic and the resources we’ve been able to bring to it have been radically different from San Francisco’s. We are looking forward to furthering our partnerships with San Francisco, highlighting our collective progress, and sharing clinical and community leadership at AIDS 2020.” Read the full media release here.


July 6, 2020
July 11, 2020
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