After another day full of presentations on the latest in HIV science at the 2015 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle yesterday, February 25, we had the opportunity to speak again with Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He shared his thoughts on two highlights from the day’s many presentations.
Dr. Dieffenbach’s first highlight was a featured presentation by Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD, who is Coordinator of the U.S. Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. Ambassador Birx spoke about what she calls PEPFAR 3.0, the new paradigm she and her team are using to move the program forward, evolving its focus to sustainable impact for an AIDS-free generation. Dr. Dieffenbach applauded PEPFAR’s focus on the use of data to better focus how funds are being allocated as well as the program’s enhanced focus on accountability and transparency. (Watch for our interview with Ambassador Birx next week.)
Research for an HIV cure continues to be a global priority and an important topic at CROI. The second highlight Dr. Dieffenbach shared was research presented related to better understanding the persistence of latent reservoirs of HIV in the body even among individuals who are on HIV treatment since treatment can suppress but does not eliminate the virus. Such studies are important, he explained, to ongoing research for a cure since it may suggest possible new approaches to target and kill the virus. In fact, he highlighted a study presented at the conference about a new class of drugs that actually can activate latent virus and eliminate it in ways we haven’t seen before. In light of those findings a drug company will soon begin a human clinical trial it was announced at the conference.
Tomorrow Dr. Dieffenbach will share brief highlights of the science presented on the conference’s final day.