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AIDS activists are protesting 'prohibitive and repressive' registration fees for delegates at the forthcoming International AIDS Conference, to be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 12 to 16 July.

James Wentzy from the advocacy group Aids Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) has circulated a call for supporters to write to Joep Lange, president of the International AIDS Society, demanding that the US$1,000 fee be waived.

Ironically, the conference theme is 'Access for All'.

On the conference website, the scientific co-chairs of the meeting, Prasert Thongcharoen and David Cooper, say that the conference theme reflects "the need for us to make the multitude of scientific knowledge and experience accessible to all, at every level of the fight against HIV/AIDS".

But Wentzy argues that the registration fee makes this impossible. He suggests that those who can afford to travel to Bangkok – but who cannot afford the registration fee – should be allowed into the conference free of charge. His call to action was distributed on an email newsletter produced by the AIDS Education Global Information System (AEGiS), an Internet-based information resource.

The conference offered free places to 1,000 delegates through its international scholarship programme. But the programme was heavily oversubscribed, receiving nearly 10,000 applications.

Wentzy is unlikely to be popular with the conference organisers. Last year he criticised Thailand as a choice of venue because of reports that HIV victims there had been shot by security forces. He was quoted by the US-based HIV advocacy publication POZ magazine as saying that "it would be unconscionable to hold an international AIDS conference in Thailand-and there would be hell to pay".

Link to Wentzy's entry on AEGIS mailing list calling for supporters to write to Joep Lange

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