Activists caused a furor that year over a ban on people with HIV from entering the United States.
In response, the International AIDS Society pledged not to hold the conference in any country that prohibits entry of HIV-positive people. President Obama lifted the ban in 2010.
While the science of HIV/AIDS is advancing, the global economic crisis has meant cuts to AIDS programs across the board.
To symbolize their demand for commitment to AIDS funding, protesters ended the march by tying donated dollar bills with symbolic red AIDS ribbons, along with keys, pill bottles, and underpants, to the White House gate.
"For a lot of people here a dollar is a lot of money," said Jose de Marco, of ACT-UP Philadelphia, a longtime local AIDS activist group. "It's symbolic . . . we want the programs fully funded."
While marching through downtown Washington, de Marco said Prevention Point, a Philadelphia AIDS service provider, had been cutting staff and services in the face of budget cuts.
"When we used to talk to congresspeople and they asked, 'How long?' (will funding be necessary), we would artfully change the subject," recalled Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP, formed in 1999 by activists from Philadelphia and other cities. But with recent advances, and with increased funding, she said, "in 30 years AIDS as a pandemic could be over."
The colorful demonstration had five branches highlighting different populations touched by HIV. De Marco marched in the human rights branch, along with sex workers, injecting drug users, formerly incarcerated people, homosexuals, and homeless people.
"We're not the 'respectable' crowd of HIV/AIDS," he said.
Waheedah Shabazz-El, a Philadelphia-based member of the US Positive Women's Network, marched in the women's branch, a crowd punctuated by pink and purple balloons, bras and underpants, and blue scarves, symbolizing women making waves.
"We are tired of being thrown under the bus," she said. "Women haven't been made a priority . . . we're way down the list, under men who have sex with men, but men who have sex with men have sex with women, too."
She said women are rarely screened for HIV, so many do not realize they have the virus until it is advanced.
Other branches called for reform of pharmaceutical policy to make AIDS drugs more affordable and accessible and for better access to housing for people living with HIV.
This march paired with the Occupy movement to call for a "Robin Hood Tax," a small tax on Wall Street transactions to fund AIDS treatment.
More than a dozen activists, including Roy Hayes of ACT-UP Philadelphia, were arrested after staging a sit-in in front of the White House.
Activism "is part of the very fabric of the conference," said Val Sowell, an ACT-UP Philadelphia organizer.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed. When protesters interrupted her speech at the conference, she simply asked, "What would an AIDS conference be without a little protesting?"