This week, many in the HIV community are finalizing plans for participation in AIDS 2012 — be it in person, via webcast, or via social media.
I feel honored to join my federal colleagues to prepare for the U.S. government’s presence at this historic meeting. The current wave of activities reminds me of the preparation for, and participation in, my first International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2010, held in Vienna, Austria. That summer of 2010 was a time of great significance in our efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, both in the U.S. and around the world. President Obama had just released the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy that outlined a bold new vision for our response to the epidemic.
I vividly recall several important scientific findings announced at AIDS 2010. The CAPRISA 004 study showed the antiretroviral-based vaginal microbicides to be safe and effective in reducing risks of new HIV infections among women by nearly 40 percent. In addition, NIH announced the results of the iPrEx study, showing that a daily dose of HIV drugs reduced the risk of HIV infection among HIV-negative men who have sex with men by 44%, supporting the concept of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in a targeted population.
During the conference, I was privileged to participate in an opening day session entitled, “Discussion on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy” and hear from many other leaders in the HIV community. A few of these conversations were recorded in these podcasts: a conversation with Dr. Jack Stein on Drug Control Policy and a conversation with PACHA members Helene Gayle and Phill Wilson. I also recorded a podcast on HIV travel restrictions.
In the two years since AIDS 2010, we have witnessed new milestones in policy, science and service. These developments include:
- Lead federal agencies released implementation plans in support of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy , and we are moving ahead in partnership with the HIV community to make those plans come alive.
- The HPTN 052 clinical trial, an international HIV prevention trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), found that if HIV-infected heterosexual individuals begin taking antiretroviral medicines when their immune systems are relatively healthy (as opposed to delaying therapy until the disease has advanced), they are 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to their uninfected partners. NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said: “The HPTN 052 study convincingly demonstrated that antiretroviral medications can not only treat, but also prevent the transmission of HIV infection among heterosexual individuals.”
- The observance of the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS in the U.S. brought renewed attention to HIV/AIDS.
- A CDC study (TDF2) and a separate trial (the Partners PrEP study) provided the first evidence that a daily oral dose of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV infection can also reduce HIV acquisition among uninfected individuals exposed to the virus through heterosexual sex.
- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shared the U.S. Government’s bold new vision of creating an AIDS-free generation, and honored the remarkable progress made in 30 years of fighting AIDS.
- On December 1 (World AIDS Day), President Obama announced accelerated efforts to increase the availability of treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. He challenged the global community to support The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and called on Congress to uphold its commitments. And he called on all Americans to keep fighting to end the epidemic. On the same day, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new funds to support AIDS Drug Assistance Programs and increase access to HIV/AIDS care services.
Presenting these and other accomplishments will contribute to making AIDS 2012 a landmark conference. I am proud to report federal employees from across the government had more than 500 abstracts accepted and will have the opportunity to share their exciting research findings. And, finally, I would like to call attention to two critical sessions:
- On Sunday July 22 from 1:30-3:30 PM, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will sponsor a satellite session entitled, “Achieving the Goals of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Future Directions.” Please join us in the convention center in Session Room 9. After the session, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, will share a summary of the key points in a blog on AIDS.gov.
- On Monday July 23 in the daily plenary scheduled for 9-10:30a.m., Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director, will discuss “Ending the HIV Epidemic: From Scientific Advances to Public Health Implementation”. If you are not able to attend the session, Kaiser will provide a live webcast of the session.
AIDS 2012 is an exceptional chance for dialogue about moving toward an AIDS-free generation and for sharing progress in turning the tide together. I invite everyone to follow the conference at USG@AIDS 2012. My federal colleagues and I will post updates daily on the AIDS.gov blog. Please join me and experience this historic event.