HIV Conference Organizers Fear Travel Ban's Effect on International Medical Meetings
Organizers of the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, an annual scientific research conference on HIV in Seattle that starts on Feb. 13, are speaking out against President Trump's executive order that temporarily bans travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, for 90 days.
The International Antiviral Society-USA has joined with CROI to voice their opposition. "These restrictions threaten to interrupt the exchange of scientific research information that is vital to the global response to health threats such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and many other infectious disease," said Susan Buchbinder, M.D., director of the Bridge program at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and the chair of the 2017 CROI. As a consequence, the restrictions endanger rather than protect the health and well-being of Americans and people all over the world."
Nearly 4,000 scientists, researchers, clinicians, students and others working in the fight against HIV, AIDS and other related diseases are expected to attend CROI, almost half of whom are international delegates.
"Beyond the immediate impact on individuals directly affected by the ban, there is serious reason for concern that the policy will dissuade other scientists and researchers from travelling to the U.S. and sharing their work with colleagues here. Such a response to the U.S. action could severely damage our global leadership in science and medicine," said Judith S. Currier, M.D., professor of medicine at UCLA and Vice-Chair of CROI 2017.
So far, CROI is unaware of any attendees who might plan to boycott the event because of the executive order, and the organization is adamant that delegates from every part of the world, including researchers and clinicians from the countries named in the order, are welcome at CROI. "We understand the desire to boycott, but believe that the best form of resistance to this ban is not to abstain from scientific exchange, but to continue to participate," said Constance A. Benson, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Senior Attending Physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of California, San Diego, and president of the CROI Foundation.
The 9th Circuit of Court of Appeals will hear arguments today on the temporary restraining order that suspended the ban.