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NIH Leadership at the XIX International AIDS Conference

Dr. Jack Whitescarver

Dr. Jack Whitescarver

The hosting of the XIX International AIDS Conference in our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, is a tremendous opportunity to reflect on how AIDS has affected the United States, and how the United States has worked to reduce the impact of the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world.

The first cases of what we would come to know as AIDS were identified here more than thirty years ago.  It was soon apparent, however, that AIDS would touch the entire world.  The United States was the birthplace of the community-based response to this epidemic, and to activist efforts that helped push HIV/AIDS to the top of the global health agenda.

The United States is also the global leader in supporting research to reduce the epidemic and to make the prospect of an AIDS-free generation a reality.  Research at the National Institutes of Health has:

  • Led to the co-discovery of HIV and development of the first blood test for HIV, which has allowed the diagnosis of the infection and essentially eliminated transfusion-related HIV transmission
  • Defined the pathogenesis and structure of HIV, paving the way for effective treatments, prevention tools, and diagnostics
  • Established the scientific basis for effective antiretroviral therapies and drug regimens
  • Demonstrated interventions that significantly reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission
  • Demonstrated prevention strategies including treatment as prevention, medical male circumcision, syringe exchange, pre-exposure prophylaxis and key behavioral HIV prevention strategies
  • Led to breakthroughs in the search for microbicides and an HIV vaccine
  • Outlined potential strategies to eliminate viral reservoirs in the body, leading, for the first time, to research aimed at a possible AIDS cure.

Investments in AIDS research have also led to critical advances that benefit research on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of dozens of other serious diseases as well, from cancers to Alzheimer’s disease to new strategies to improve maternal and child health.

The results of this national commitment to AIDS research are evident.  More than a third of the 3,000-plus abstracts at AIDS 2012 will be presented by researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Research progress against HIV has been inspiring, but the challenges ahead are also significant. Today, NIH is prioritizing critical research to: improve existing HIV prevention tools and develop new prevention technologies, including a vaccine and microbicide; develop better, less toxic treatments for HIV and its co-infections, malignancies and other complications; reduce the epidemic’s impact on the most vulnerable populations; and characterize HIV reservoirs, with the goal of developing drugs or other approaches to eliminate or control HIV infection.

All of this work will be on display at AIDS 2012. In addition to presenting cutting-edge research throughout the conference, NIH leaders will be featured in several high-level sessions, including an opening day satellite, New Frontiers in NIH AIDS Research, (Sunday, 22 July 11:15 am; Session Room 6), which will outline NIH AIDS research findings and achievements to date and priorities moving forward. Panelists for this interactive satellite will include NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow, and other research leaders from across the NIH. The program for New Frontiers in NIH AIDS Research is available here Exit Disclaimer.

On Monday, July 23, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci will give an opening plenary entitled, Ending the HIV Epidemic: From Scientific Advances to Public Health Implementation (8:30 am; session room 1). NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins will moderate a panel entitled, The Science of HIV: What Lies Ahead (Monday, 23 July 1:00 pm; session room 5). Dr. Collins will also speak at and moderate a session on The Future of Genomics in HIV Medicine (Wednesday, 25 July, 11:00 am; session room 1).

Other NIH satellites include No “Getting to Zero AIDS” Without Scale-Up of Stigma Reduction on Sunday 22 July at 1:30 p.m. in Session Room 8 and HIV and Aging: A Global Perspective on Research, Care and Prevention on Monday 23 July at 6:30 p.m. in Session Room 6.

The NIH exhibit (Booth #72 in the U.S. Pavilion) at AIDS 2012 will include dozens of “Meet the Expert” sessions featuring researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Mental Health, Fogarty International Center and many of the other 27 NIH Institutes and Centers that are conduct and support AIDS research. A full schedule of NIH “Meet the Expert” sessions, fact sheets, and other conference materials are available at http://aids2012.oar.nih.gov.

AIDS 2012 provides a unique opportunity to examine how far we have come in our response to this global pandemic, and how far we have yet to go. NIH-supported researchers on the NIH campus and at more than 3,000 universities, medical schools and other research institutions around the world will continue working on the many research challenges associated with HIV, until the day when we all live in a world without AIDS.

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