Vienna: An estimated 20,000 participants from over 185 countries are taking part in the 18th International AIDS Conference that began in Vienna Sunday.
The conference is a platform for those working in the field of HIV/AIDS as well as policy makers and persons living with HIV to exchange their views on the current situation of HIV prevention and treatment, new research in the field and recent scientific developments.
With "Rights Here, Right Now" as its slogan, the conference also emphasises the protection of human rights for those living with or most vulnerable to HIV, including right to healthcare and access to all scientific HIV prevention and intervention methods.
Addressing the opening session through video conference, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the improvements made in the global HIV programme, but stressed that many obstacles still remain.
Julio Montaner, chair of the conference and president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), and Brigitte Schmied, president of the Austrian AIDS Society also addressed the opening ceremony.
They both called on the international community to jointly fights against HIV/AIDS, stressing that full protection of human rights represents a fundamental first step to achieve the goal.
According to the latest figures of the UN, 33.4 million people have been found living with HIV by the end of 2008.