Episode 10 - 2011-2012: Renewed optimism
2011 was a significant year as it marked the 30th anniversary of the first reported cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). 2011will be remembered by everyone working in the HIV field as a year with many highlights, including challenges.
The 6th IAS conference on HIV pathogenesis, treatment and prevention (IAS 2011) held in Rome, Italy, drew almost 8,000 participants from 142 countries. For years global HIV stakeholders have debated the relative merits of pursuing research on HIV prevention versus HIV treatment. The debate reached a watershed conclusion at IAS 2011, where four landmark trials demonstrated definitively – with statistical significance – that treatment with antiretrovirals is prevention.
The conference also provided an opportunity for advocates to call for essential investments to translate scientific promise into real programmes. Significant activism focused on the failure of Italy to fulfil its outstanding financial pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (€260 million from the 2007 replenishment) or to commit any new funding. The subject of whether governments in both the developed and developing world would capitalize on hard-won scientific knowledge by making the strategic investments required to fulfil their potential - resonated throughout the conference and continued to be a central concern to all those working in HIV.
In order to better address the complexities and the new challenges linked to the HIV epidemic, in 2011 the IAS Governing Council added Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and Effectiveness and Efficiency (E2) of National AIDS Programmes to its policy and advocacy priorities for 2012 and 2013. The other priorities were HIV Professionals and Human Rights, HIV Cure, Social and Political Research, and Key Affected Populations (KAPs).
IAS membership reached 16,000 in 2011, which represented a constant and steady growth from 6,000 in 2004. The growing membership contributes to the continuous development of the IAS’s role in the global response to the HIV epidemic.
In 2012 several scientific advances, including additional evidence on treatment as prevention and growing momentum for an HIV cure, together with a significant decrease in new HIV infections, an increase in the number of people accessing treatment (up 60% between 2010 and 2012) and progress in scaling up HIV services worldwide, gave everyone a renewed sense of optimism, similar to what was experienced in the 1990s when the first combined antiretroviral therapy became available.
The International AIDS Conference returned to the USA after a 22 year absence due to a US ban for people living with HIV, which was eventually over-turned by President Obama. Over 23,000 participants gathered in Washington, D.C., to attend the 19th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), as well as dozens of independent affiliated events and pre-conference activities. Speakers and participants embraced the conference theme, Turning the Tide Together
AIDS 2012 featured the largest Global Village at an International AIDS Conference, with over 190,000 square feet and 265 events. The conference’s programme focused on using recent scientific developments to scale up treatment and biomedical prevention efforts, identifying and addressing the challenges to discovering a cure for HIV, and addressing stigmatization, discrimination, and poverty. For the first time, global agreement was reached on the possibility to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Building on the “Towards an HIV Cure: HIV Reservoirs and Strategies to Control Them” workshop held at AIDS 2010 in Vienna, conference the IAS and its partners launched the ‘Towards an HIV Cure Global Scientific Strategy’ immediately prior to the AIDS 2012 conference. The aim was to contribute both to maximising resources and strategic investment in the most promising strategies in search of a cure, and to the establishment of an international research alliance and expansion of global collaboration of existing consortia. The strategy identified seven priority research areas, spanning basic science in virology and immunology, preclinical science and clinical trials.
In 2012 the IAS also launched the Collaborative Initiative for Paediatric HIV Education and Research (CIPHER), a major two-year paediatric research initiative aimed at addressing outstanding research gaps related to clinical management and delivery of services to infants, children and adolescents affected by HIV. Funded by the ViiV Healthcare, UK Paediatric Innovation Seed Fund, the initiative is aimed at promoting priority paediatric research and strengthening paediatric cohort collaboration.
In addition the IAS formed an international advisory group of experts from various disciplines to develop a strategy to examine and debate issues related to Treatment as Prevention. A similar approach was also used in the case of the Effectiveness and Efficiency (E2) policy priority, and in April 2012 the IAS and partner organizations convened a multi-stakeholder consultation on E2 in Nairobi, Kenya, in order to share recent research findings and best practices.