We need to get out of our ivory towers and involve communities in our approach
Henry de Vries, Congress President

Welcome to the STI & HIV 2021 World Congress to be held in Amsterdam from 14 to 17 July 2021! This bi-annual meeting dedicated to STI in its broadest sense will be organised by the International Society for STD Research (ISSTDR) in collaboration with the International Union against STI World (IUSTI World), just like earlier editions.

“Sexual diversity and the city” is this year’s theme and our mission is to address diversity, health and sexuality in the urban context. Why? Over 60% of the current world population live in urbanised settings, places where a large portion of the STI epidemic is also focussed. At the same time, urban environments offer networks, infrastructures, multidisciplinarity and creativity from which solutions can emerge. Cities can act as giant outdoor labs, experimental sites, research incubators and ideal environments for the implementation of interventions.

As scientists working in the field of STI we are often confronted with key populations such as sex workers, migrants, men who have sex with men and transgender persons. We try to reach out using special techniques such as snowball sampling or respondent driven sampling. Often, we fail in our attempts and refer to these groups as “hard to reach populations”. What we often do not realise is that we ourselves might be “hard to reach”.

The big challenge for future STI research will be to involve communities, practitioners and healthcare workers in our research. We need to get out of our ivory towers and abandon top down approaches. Whether it involves neat in vitro work, randomised trials or mathematical models. To address the needs of those affected by STI and their medical caretakers, their involvement is required, not as a final step but from the design phase of our projects. This is an imperative to successfully implement results from a research environment to daily life.

We welcome you and hope to see you in the summer of 2021 in Amsterdam. Come and share your latest results, get inspired, start new collaborations and enjoy our vibrant capital!

On behalf of the organising committee,
Henry de Vries | President-Elect of the International Society for STD Research