After the 8th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2015) got underway in Vancouver, Canada yesterday, July 20, we spoke by Skype with Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He shared some highlights from the first full day of sessions at this biennial conference that has gathered some 6,000 delegates – scientists, clinicians, public health experts, community leaders, and others from across the globe – to examine the latest scientific developments in HIV-related research and to explore how those can be implemented.
Progress and Challenges in HIV Prevention
Dr. Dieffenbach highlighted a special presentation by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, about progress and challenges in HIV prevention as we move forward to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Dr. Fauci discussed the importance of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in both treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). He noted follow-up findings shared at the conference from the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) study 052 that make clear that when an HIV-infected person takes ART that keeps the virus suppressed, the treatment is highly effective at preventing sexual transmission of HIV to an uninfected heterosexual partner. Dr. Fauci also discussed encouraging findings being shared at the conference from a clinical study that demonstrates that populations at substantial HIV risk could accept and reliably adhere to daily PrEP dosing.
Even with these highly effective tools, Dr. Fauci observed that to halt new HIV infections and end the pandemic, a combination of non-vaccine and vaccine prevention approaches will be needed, and discussed the steps researchers are taking to develop a series of vaccine candidates that can be tested.
Global HIV Response
Dr. Dieffenbach also highlighted a plenary address by Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. Ambassador Birx, who oversees the PEPFAR program, discussed opportunities and challenges in the global HIV response in 2015. She discussed how PEPFAR is evolving to address new challenges of implementing expanded treatment and prevention activities, and moving forward aggressively to be more effective and efficient with our partners around the world.
Dr. Dieffenbach observed that Dr. Fauci and Ambassador Birx’s speeches dovetailed on the issue of the need to address implementation gaps — better application of proven prevention technologies that can help drive down the global incidence of HIV. For example, evidence shows that HIV risk is not uniformly distributed; certain high-transmission areas have disproportionately elevated rates of incidence as compared to neighboring districts. Dr. Fauci discussed that by focusing on these areas, understanding the drivers of HIV risk and deploying prevention technologies, HIV transmission could be decreased dramatically, finally halting the spread of HIV.
View more information about IAS 2015 sessions at http://ias2015.org .
Tomorrow, Dr. Dieffenbach will return to share brief highlights of the science presented at IAS 2015 on Tuesday, July 21.