The 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) officially opened in Seattle on Monday afternoon, March 5th. Over 4,200 researchers, providers, community leaders, and advocates from 83 countries gathered at the Washington State Convention Center to hear the opening plenary session. The first presentation was from Dr. Dennis Burton, an internationally renowned expert in HIV virology who shared newly emerging information about neutralizing antibodies to HIV that are providing scientists new insights into developing a vaccine for HIV. Next, Drs. Quarraisha and Salim Abdool Karim shared an overview of two decades of their groundbreaking prevention research in South Africa that led to the development of an effective vaginal microbicide to help protect young women from HIV infection.
The theme of prevention carried over into the plenary session on Tuesday, March 6 during which Dr. Wafaa El Sadr talked about antiretroviral therapy (ART) as an important prevention strategy. Dr. El Sadr reminded conference participants that there is no easy or single solution to achieving the promise of ART for prevention. Instead, she advocated for further research into novel strategies for expanding early diagnosis of HIV, actively linking persons into care, and developing tools, systems and processes that help people stay in care. Dr. El Sadr recognized the strength of community partnerships, including partnerships with people living with HIV/AIDS, as an essential ingredient in moving forward with a “vibrant” research agenda.
Later in the morning, a series of oral abstracts on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), microbicides and male circumcision were presented. Follow-up questions to PrEP researchers emphasized the importance of developing alternatives to daily dosing strategies and the need to better understand the factors and variables that influence adherence.
It is simply not possible to share all of the important information coming out of this meeting. As such, I would like to remind all of you that the CROI abstracts are available online as well as webcasts and podcasts of many sessions. I urge you to visit the CROI site and learn more about the amazing work that is being presented here in Seattle.