Postponement of the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific

On behalf of the Local Organizing Committee of the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (7th ICAAP), I should like to express my sincere gratitude for your continued attention and support to the Congress. I am afraid that we have to make a regrettable announcement concerning the 7th ICAAP in this letter.

It was decided that the 7th ICAAP, which has been slated for November this year, would be postponed until the year 2005. LOC submitted a proposal to put off the Congress for deliberation to the sponsors of the 7th ICAAP; AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific (ASAP) and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and also to the Seven Sisters, co-sponsoring organizations of the Congress. On June 27, we have obtained the final approval from ASAP, the custodian body of ICAAP.

Our proposal for postponement was met by some strong critical comments, stating that it would be a grave loss in our effort to resolve the issue of HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, and LOC received a lot of calls for organizing the Congress as scheduled. LOC held a clear and deep understanding of such issues involved with the postponement, nevertheless, it had no choice but to make the proposal. We are very much obliged that our proposal was finally accepted despite the complications it involves.

This inevitable decision to postpone the 7th ICAAP was made due to the high possibility of reemergence of SARS as foreseen by relevant specialists, which could be rampant on top of the influenza epidemic that prevailed every winter in Japan. The fact made us very much concerned about a potential turmoil in the Congress and the surrounding community. In addition, an exceptional case of significant economic damage caused by SARS in Japan occurred unfortunately in the neighboring areas of the hosting city, Kobe. Citizens of Kobe City, who were earnestly making preparations to welcome the 7th ICAAP, came to be very much anxious about an infectious disease yet to be highly medically identified, and the potential harm it could do to the community due to the incident. Their reaction is understandable in the context that people in this area have not completely recovered from the economic damage caused by the great earthquake hit the area in 1995, which claimed 5000 human lives.

We are in a critical phase with regard to the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Asian and Pacific Regions, and it is evident that the postponement of ICAAP at this stage could cause a significant loss in our efforts. LOC, together with the sponsors and co-sponsors of the 7th ICAAP, recognizes the fact very clearly. The decision was not an easy one, and LOC has thoroughly examined every possible countermeasure against SARS referring to WHO guideline and other pertinent information in order to make the good use of our preparatory works and hold the Congress as scheduled. We, however, also have responsibilities to adopt the most prudent course to relieve the citizens of the hosting city who are supporting the Congress, and convince them to organize the Congress successfully. LOC came to the reluctant conclusion that we could not fulfill such responsibility in the given time before the scheduled Congress dates with such regrettably limited political power and capacity.

LOC deeply regrets that this unfortunate postponement of the 7th ICAAP must be announced to those who have been concerned with and supporting the Congress, but we cordially ask for your kind understanding in the matter. LOC is determined to strive to contribute to the future development of HIV/AIDS community in Asia and the Pacific, including the success of the Bangkok Congress in 2004, and committed to make renewed endeavors toward the success of the 7th ICAAP in 2005. We very much appreciate your continued attention and support to the Congress.

Yours sincerely,

Chair, the 7th ICAAP Local Organizing Committee