Advancing the HIV/AIDS response: themes, goals, challenges, and outcomes of the 20th International AIDS Conference

20th International AIDS Conference – Melbourne Australia

As promising new scientific breakthroughs advance the search for a cure, activists say that world’s wealthiest countries need to boost their contributions.

Two HIV-infected patients now have undetectable levels of the virus after receiving bone marrow transplants for lymphoma.

But their deaths on flight MH17 remained somber remembrances at the start of this year’s conference.

What are the main themes of the conference?

The International AIDS Society’s annual conference brings together scientists, activists and policy makers from around the world to study the latest developments in HIV research and develop strategies to end the epidemic. The conference will examine global, regional and national trends of the disease and discuss innovative approaches to testing and treatment guidance, vaccine development, and community participation.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Stepping Up the Pace,” a call to accelerate efforts to scale up life-saving HIV/AIDS services. The speed at which countries introduce services can make a big difference in how rapidly the epidemic declines.

But despite the excitement of recent breakthroughs, there are still 33 million people worldwide living with HIV and many who don’t have access to the treatments they need. Organizers of this year’s conference are enhancing opportunities for virtual participation to ensure that those who can’t travel to Melbourne will be able to follow the scientific updates and have their voices heard.

What are the main goals of the conference?

At the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, scientists and activists set new goals to refocus HIV research towards an HIV vaccine and cure, long-acting treatment and combination prevention technologies, and integrated models of care. They also emphasized the need to put people first in order to achieve an AIDS free generation.

The conference is hosted by the IAS, which convenes, educates and advocates for a world in which HIV no longer poses a threat to public health or human dignity. The IAS includes over 15,000 members worldwide, including scientists, people living with HIV, activists and policy makers.

Of particular note was the conference’s emphasis on societal changes needed to end HIV, particularly in countries where people like Abhina Aher are still ostracized and criminalized for their gender identity and sexual orientation. The conference also highlighted the importance of expanding access to diagnostic services and addressing stigma and discrimination.

What are the main challenges of the conference?

As researchers, activists, and health care providers converge in Melbourne for the 20th International AIDS Conference (IAC), they will ask themselves what progress has been made in fighting HIV/AIDS and what it will take to reach the world’s most underserved populations with proven prevention and treatment strategies. They will also face a number of challenges, including the rapid spread of HIV drug resistance and the need to secure a full replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Kaiser Family Foundation hosted an interactive web briefing to discuss these and other issues related to the AIDS conference. This web briefing was led by Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society; Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Jen Kates, vice president for global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. They were joined by participants from a range of organisations, including:

What are the main outcomes of the conference?

Conference participants will focus on how to reach the world’s most marginalized populations with lifesaving HIV prevention and treatment services. This is the challenge at the heart of the global AIDS response.

The Conference will also focus on the intersection of HIV with other public health diseases and infections, including hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Research has shown that these diseases can often coexist in the same people, which is why they must be addressed together.

Other conference outcomes include updates on vaccine and cure science, new research on broadly neutralizing antibodies, and important discussions about trial design in the era of PrEP. The Conference will also feature presentations on how to better understand and measure sex violence, as well as how culture influences the form, context, and meaning of sex for vulnerable communities in different countries.

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