Volume 12, Number 11—November 2006
Peer Reviewed Report Available Online Only
The Second International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases
2nd International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases (ICWID)Atlanta, Georgia, USAMarch 16–18, 2006
Scientists, clinicians, researchers, women's health advocates, educators, policymakers, and representatives from nongovernmental organizations and community-based organizations gathered in Atlanta on March 16–18, 2006, for the second International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases (ICWID). The theme was "Progress in Science and Action."
Each of the ≈250 attendees from 25 industrialized and developing countries and 30 US states recognized the need for a forum to address the complex set of concerns and issues surrounding women and infectious diseases. The overall goal was to enhance the prevention and control of infectious diseases among women worldwide, ensuring that efforts address global inequalities.
The conference opened with keynote speaker Anne Schuchat, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who discussed advances and remaining challenges in infectious disease prevention and control in women. Other plenary speakers included Abhay Bang on India's successful efforts to reduce infant and maternal deaths through use of community-based health workers; Sharon Hillier of the University of Pittsburgh on the promise of microbicides and recent advances in microbicide clinical trials; and Shirley Malcom of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on advancing women in science. The closing plenary featured Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization (WHO) who spoke on the challenges ahead for improving prevention of infectious diseases, in particular neglected tropical diseases, in women around the world.
In addition to numerous peer-reviewed oral and poster sessions on a range of topics from infections in pregnancy to advances in HIV testing, the conference featured numerous invited panels. These covered various topics: global infectious disease disparities; sex and gender, with a focus on health consequences of early marriage and gender considerations in infectious disease prevention; women and preparedness, which addressed both the hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami responses; effective infectious disease prevention, which focused on lay health workers and the PhotoVoice strategy; and advances in maternal immunization. A panel on measuring progress addressed efforts to reduce gender and racial infectious disease disparities and examined progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals. A panel on Women and Water was a joint effort of the International Symposium on Waterborne Pathogens and ICWID; it highlighted the importance of clean water in infectious disease prevention and the role of women in providing clean water to their communities.
Twenty-six ICWID scholarships were provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These allowed persons from community organizations in 9 countries and 5 continents to attend who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. New to the second ICWID was the Gates-supported ICWID Leaders Program, which brought in 8 regional public health leaders from developing countries as far away as Vietnam and the Philippines.
Other unique features of the conference that helped foster the exchange of ideas were videos on infectious diseases in women, workshops on women in science and on evaluation, an open forum "Women Speak Out," and the multimedia exhibit of the Global Campaign for Microbicides.
The success of the conference underlines the need for gathering and analyzing gender-based data on infectious diseases, for gender-informed discussion of infectious diseases, and for international forums for networking and sharing resources in a common effort to confront and reduce infectious diseases in women.
The Office of Minority and Women's Health of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC, spearheaded the conference, which was organized by a broad ICWID Steering Committee and cosponsored by WHO, the Pan American Health Organization, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the American Society for Microbiology. Steering committee participation included numerous CDC centers and offices, the Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, the National Institutes of Health, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, community-based organizations, and academia.
Suggested Citation for this Article: McDonald M, Romero-Steiner S. The Second International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases [conference summary]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2006 Nov [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1211.061025