Australian Legacies: World AIDS in Melbourne

 Health and medical research spans a pipeline from concept to laboratory through to translation, clinical application and community benefit. It typically embraces a range of different disciplines, occurs in universities and hospitals, medical research institutes and companies, and in the community at large. It involves multiple professions, public and private entities and consumers. Australia is at the forefront of medical research and innovation, and high-profile conferences which have lasting legacies, as did World AIDS which took place in Melbourne in 2014, also partake of Australia’s influence on the global stage.

Words Rémi Dévé

Australian researchers, physicians and healthcare professionals have an excellent reputation and make a difference locally and globally. The country’s scientists have developed lifesaving discoveries, pioneered procedures, and been awarded Nobel Prizes – three researchers at the Australia National University’s John Curtin School of Medical Research have received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their extraordinary contributions to medicine. These highly-qualified professionals continue to lead work in emerging fields of science, and champion the adoption of new technologies, many of which have global impacts.

Bionic ear

Australia boasts world-class medical research and healthcare infrastructure. Every year, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies begin around 1,000 new clinical trials in Australia, meeting the highest quality and ethical standards. Clinical research is a focus for more than 40 Australian universities and 50 independent medical research institutes, with many working in collaboration. It’s these partnerships that have enabled Australia’s groundbreaking discoveries, including Gardasil®, a vaccine against human papillomavirus, and Relenza®, an antiviral drug used to treat influenza. Solutions such as the bionic ear and continuous positive airway pressure devices for sleep apnoea are also two Australian inventions that have transformed people’s lives around the world.

In this context, Australia is getting ready to respond to future challenges, including new health technologies, communicable diseases, and caring for an ageing population with complex and chronic health problems. Research is the best way to prepare for these challenges, as it contributes to health system safety and quality, ensure effectiveness of health interventions, and enable the country to develop better methods of preventing and treating disease.

“Australia’s track record of delivering exceptional association events is obviously a big part of why we are consistently chosen as the destination of choice to host medical/healthcare events. But I think our involvement in these events adds value in important other ways too through, for example, personal connections and the way our industry is able to connect thought leaders and innovators to our centres of knowledge and excellence, providing opportunity to truly create legacies that can also drive change,” says John O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Tourism Australia.

Australian cities are leveraging their knowledge and research capabilities in medical fields, for example, in order to secure major events and to realise the knowledge, investment, employment, and healthcare legacies – but not only – that can result from them. The 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), which took place in Melbourne after more than two years of extensive planning and preparation, might well be the epitome of this.

Attended by close to 12,000 delegates from 173 countries, the Conference was a platform for people working in the field of HIV, policy makers, persons living with HIV and individuals committed to ending the pandemic, to present new scientific knowledge and dialogue on the issues facing the global response to HIV. AIDS 2014 was the first ever International AIDS Conference to be held in Australia and provided a unique opportunity to explore the diverse nature of the local and regional response to HIV.

The International AIDS Society chose Melbourne as the host destination for its collaborative approach, strong support from the city, state and federal governments. The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) was, at the time, the only venue in Australia capable of hosting an event of this size and magnitude. The Conference utilised the entire facility – all 66,333 square metres of it, and the in-house technology team provided all tech requirements and equipment to facilitate more than 100 satellite events and uploaded 700 individual presentation sessions to the AIDS 2014 website.

To ensure delivery of a world-class event and a memorable experience for a large diversity of visitors more than 500 MCEC employees even participated in HIV/AIDS awareness training, in conjunction with the Victorian AIDS Council and Living Positive Victoria.

The full version of this article is available in the February issue of Boardroom, which you can download here.

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