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Several thousand researchers come to Boston next week to talk about AIDS, but they'll have another virus on their minds as well

An international conference for researchers who study AIDS and related diseases is taking extra steps to protect attendees from Covid-19 - and has added a special session on the latest information on that virus, with a panel that includes a Chinese doctor who will talk via a videoconferencing link.

The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which starts Sunday, was expected to bring up to 4,300 researchers from around the world to the Hynes Convention Center. However, the conference is now offering refunds to people who can't fly to Boston, either because quarantine issues have affected their flights or because they are now needed at home to help combat the new illness.

Unlike the American Physical Society, which yesterday canceled its annual conference in Denver just a couple of days in advance, the Boston research conference has alerted attendees that the conference is still on, but with extra precautions that include extra hand sanitizer, tissue boxes and trash bins throughout the Hynes. Microphones will be "sani-wiped" after every session and any sponge microphone covers will be removed altogether.

Also, conference-goers will be alerted to:

  • Avoid close personal contact such as handshakes, hugs, or kisses; elbow or shoulder bumps are preferred if a greeting is desired.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water regularly (with attention to between fingers and under fingernails), scrubbing for at least 20-30 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, forearm/elbow, or shirt sleeve, and wash hands ASAP after a cough or sneeze; dispose of used tissue immediately.
  • Food and drink for group breakfasts, coffee breaks, and afternoon snacks will be protected to the extent possible. Napkins and wax paper sheets will be available to use to pick up items. If you touch an item, take it—do NOT put it back on the table.
  • Stay home if you are ill.


If you develop respiratory symptoms during the conference, you are asked to self-isolate to the extent possible. The Hynes Convention Center has an EMT center on site.

The conference is not alone at stepping up precautions at events in Boston - which to date has had one confirmed Covid-19 case - in a person who had just returned from Wuhan, China (Rhode Island announced its first case today).

Last week, the Seafood Expo North America, expected to draw 18,000 people to the South Boston convention center, announced attendees should follow a "no-contact, no handshake" policy" and said it the convention-center authority will "position hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipes in key high-traffic areas throughout the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center" as well as step up cleaning and sanitizing of everything from microphones to escalator and stair handrails.

Also, the conference will be staffed by "medically trained public safety staff as well as Boston Emergency Medical Services (Boston EMS) onsite during the event ready to implement the most effective protocols in accordance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)."

The Cognitive Neuroscience Society, scheduled to hold its annual meeting at the Hynes starting March 14, is also offering refunds to people who cannot attend due to Covid-19-related issues, and has its own tips, which include replacing handshakes with an "elbow bump, head nod, bow, or air fist bump" and a suggestion to "think about using your knuckles instead of your fingertips for pushing buttons and using paper towels or tissues for opening doors after washing your hands."



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It alternates coasts and is at the Hynes every other year.

For those of you interested in HIV/AIDS research, it's one of the few conferences I know of that routinely has almost everything available online - video and slides of sessions are usually posted within hours and their daily press conferences are webcast (though, sadly, not kept online afterwards).

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