Tag Archives: International AIDS Conference

“Turning the Tide” on HIV/AIDS

In advance of the upcoming XIX International AIDS Conference, the International AIDS Society and the University of California, San Francisco, have issued the “Washington D.C. Declaration,” a nine-point action plan aimed at broadening global support for “Turning the Tide” of the AIDS epidemic.

Everyone is urged to sign the Declaration.

It calls for:

1) An increase in targeted new investments;
2) Evidence-based HIV prevention, treatment, and care in accord with the human rights of those at greatest risk and in greatest need;
3) An end to stigma, discrimination, legal sanctions, and human rights abuses against those living with and at risk for HIV;
4) Marked increases in HIV testing, counseling, and linkages to services;
5) Treatment for all pregnant and nursing women living with HIV and an end to perinatal transmission;
6) Expanded access to antiretroviral treatment for all in need;
7) Identification, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis;
8) Accelerated research on new tools for HIV prevention, treatment, vaccines, and a cure;
9) Mobilization and meaningful involvement of affected communities.

Turning the Tide is the theme of this year’s biennial conference, which will take place July 22-27 in Washington.  It is expected to draw 25,000 attendees, including HIV professionals, activists, politicians, and celebrities. Sir Elton John will open the conference and Bill Clinton will close it. A large delegation of U.S. members of Congress will participate, and Bill Gates will moderate a session. An enormous “Global Village” outside the D.C. Convention Center will be open to the public. “If you haven’t been, it’s a conference like no other,” conference cochair Dr. Diane V. Havlir said at a press briefing.

The recent optimism regarding HIV/AIDS stems from major advances in knowledge regarding prevention of partner transmission with early patient treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and male circumcision as HIV infection prevention (new data will be released at the meeting), all of which are viewed as breakthroughs  in the fight against HIV/AIDS. “So we have now in our hands the tools. The question is how do we combine those tools together, and how do we roll them out,” said Dr. Havlir, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and chief of the HIV/AIDS division at San Francisco General Hospital.

Dr. Diane V. Havlir / Photo by Miriam E. Tucker

Monday’s plenary session will include an address from Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on “Ending the HIV Epidemic: From Scientific Advances to Public Health Implementation.” Other plenary topics during the week will include viral eradication, vaccines, TB and HIV, and HIV/AIDS in specific populations including minorities, women, youth, and men who have sex with men. On Friday, there will be a plenary talk that may be of particular interest to the primary care community, “The Intersection of Noncommunicable Diseases and Aging in HIV.”

Plenaries and other conference sessions will be webcast at http://globalhealth.kff.org/aids2012.

-Miriam E. Tucker (@MiriamETucker on Twitter)

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Medical Meeting as Performance

The medical meetings I cover are mostly academic exercises, with researchers reporting new data and other experts mulling the data over and trying to decide what it means. But there is another aspect to many meetings, especially the big ones with thousands or even tens of thousands of attendees, that has a decidedly theatrical element. I even know some people who insist on calling these meetings shows, although that’s mostly their exhibit-hall orientation.

No other medical meeting I’ve covered, easily more than 400 in my career, incorporates as much theater and performance as the International AIDS Conferences, which began in 1985 and have been held every other year since 1996. The AIDS Conferences are where conventional meeting science and discussion collides with demonstrations, passions, and flamboyant displays.

At the eighteenth International AIDS Conference, held this week and wrapped up today in Vienna, my vote for the most attention-grabbing and creative theatricality was the Condomize! display that maintained an expansive presence in the middle of the main traffic corridor all week. Volunteers from The Condom Project created condom mosaics on corridor columns, worked beneath billboard-sized condom murals along with a display of air-filled condoms (the better to see the variety of sizes), and had tables laden with thousands of condoms for distribution and for the creation of condom pins.

Other theatrical elements included the Haitian solidary demonstration that took over the podium and launched one morning’s plenary session.

Where else but at the AIDS Conference would you find Annie Lennox co-chairing a plenary session.

all images by Mitchel Zoler

And then there was the most electrifying and anticipated report at this year’s session, last Tuesday afternoon, when researchers from Caprisa reported results from their proof-of-principle clinical study that showed a tenofovir vaginal gel used by women before and after sex cut the rate of new HIV infections by a relative 39% (see my report here). During the course of the hour-long report, the large, packed audience greeted the exciting results with four separate outbursts of applause, ending with a standing ovation at the end of the talk.

Nothing gets more theatrical than a performance received like that.

—Mitchel Zoler (on Twitter @mitchelzoler)

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