AIDS is at a scientific watershed, says IAS 2011 International Chair Elly Katabira at the opening of the world’s largest open scientific conference on HIV and AIDS
Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Head, adds that history will judge us not by our scientific breakthroughs on AIDS, but how we apply them
Sunday, 17 July, 2011 (Rome, Italy) – More than 5,000 AIDS researchers, scientists, clinicians, community leaders and policy experts gathered in Rome for the opening of the 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011) have welcomed the growing momentum in biomedical research, but have warned that the benefits of these advances need to be evenly shared between the global North and South. Opening Session speakers also used this occasion to call on the Italian government to re-commit to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“We are at a scientific watershed in the global AIDS response,” said IAS 2011 International Chair and International AIDS Society President Elly Katabira. “We have witnessed two years of significant biomedical advances, the likes of which we have not seen since the antiretroviral breakthroughs of the mid 1990s. The excitement around these advances in research – whether they be the CAPRISA 004 vaginal gel, the HPTN 052 study on treatment as prevention, talk around the path towards a cure, or the encouraging signs on PrEP and vaccines – is very much driving the debates and discussions that we are going to see in Rome over the next few days.”
“IAS 2011 delegates, like many professionals working in the international response to HIV, are understandably excited about recent scientific breakthroughs. However, we need to ensure that the advances we are making in research such as the now proven concept of antiretroviral treatment as a means of HIV prevention – is translated into action for people in developing countries,” said IAS 2011 Local Co-Chair Stefano Vella, Research Director at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS). “Advances in science need to be matched by advances in resourcing. I call on the Italian government to recommit itself as a donor nation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.”
In an Opening Session keynote speech, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said that gaps in access to HIV treatment within and between countries and key populations were an affront to humanity that can and must be closed by innovations in developing, pricing and delivering treatments and commodities for HIV, TB, malaria, reproductive health and other health issues.
“We have to remember that history will judge us not by our scientific breakthroughs, but how we apply them,” said Sidibé.
The IAS Conference series focuses on the translation of research into practice, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
The emphasis on the real-world application of science was also reflected in today’s Opening Session, which began with welcoming remarks by IAS 2011 Co-Chairs, a message from Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Republic of Italy, an address from Giovanni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome, followed by a community welcome by Filippo von Schloesser, President of Fondazione Nadir Onlus. Mr von Schloesser said the Italian government‘s waning commitment to HIV/AIDS was a major concern to people living with HIV.
IAS 2011 will reveal promising new data across all four scientific tracks – particularly in the areas of HIV treatment as prevention, HIV cure efforts, new drugs and new antiretroviral combinations, and the scale up of effective prevention and treatment interventions in resource-limited settings. From a scientific perspective, this is a time of optimism which was last seen in the mid 1990s, when the promise of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) first became real. IAS 2011, while urging governments and donors to commit to continued and increased commitment to HIV and AIDS across all programme areas, will stress the necessity to respect the Sydney declaration – the declaration released during the 4th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, which stated that 10 per cent of all HIV funding should go on research.[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article’s content, whether in support or in opposition.]