Kaisernetwork.org Daily Video Roundup From XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Wednesday, Aug. 6
Participants at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City on Wednesday heard about the future of the epidemic from a variety of perspectives. According to Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, research possibilities are "bright and promising." "However, here we are in Mexico City still in the middle of a raging pandemic," said Fauci. "To be sure there are multiple and daunting challenges ahead in terms of how we confront HIV globally. Not all but certainly some of these challenges can only be addressed through biomedical research."
Those biomedical advancements, which for the time being remain elusive, include a vaccine and a cure for HIV.
Robert Siliciano, M.D., Ph.D. Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, outlined the three steps necessary for eradicating HIV from an infected person's body. The first is stopping HIV from replicating, which he says has already been accomplished with current treatment methods. The second is identifying the areas of the body where HIV still persists. And third is eliminating HIV from those reservoirs.
"Treatment failure is not inevitable," Siliciano said. "Even with the drugs we have today or with forms of the drugs that are very similar to what we have today, if we could develop forms of these drugs that could be taken for life with acceptable levels of toxicity than its, in principle possible, to offer everyone who is currently living with HIV infection the chance for a normal life. This is the long term challenge that all of us face."
Current treatment methods are extending the lives of three million people worldwide, though millions more are not getting access to the drugs they need. Despite a doubling of children on antiretroviral therapy over a two year period, the vast majority of the more than two million children living with HIV are not getting therapy. "Prevention, care and treatment for children continue to lag behind adults," said Linda Richter, Ph.D. with the Human Sciences Research Council. "Support for affected children has been left largely to families, extended kin and communities. Although they are the most appropriate group to care for children, they cannot protect and care for children without assistance."
Criminalization of sex work was also discussed today as a driver of the epidemic.
Elena Reynaga RedTraSex argued for decriminalization and reducing the stigma associated with sex work.
"When there is a country that discriminates, that is conservative, that criminalizes sex work, the prevalence of HIV is higher," she said.
Community advocates at the conference expressed the need to raise up new leaders in the fight against HIV.
"How can we think beyond what we see today?" asked Vuyiseka Dubula with the Treatment Action Campaign. "If the policy is bad today what will it mean for the next 20 years, 50 years? So that we start building campaigns building towards 2031, because by 2031 if we haven't done anything it might be too late."
In Mexico City, Jill Braden Balderas with kaisernetwork.org.
The Daily Roundup from Aug. 6 and video coverage from earlier in the week are available online at kaisernetwork.org.