6 LESSONS LEARNED
FROM THE 20TH INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE
HELD IN MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA IN JULY 2014
No one can be left behind if the AIDS epidemic is to come to an end by 2030. This was one of the main messages of the 20th International AIDS Conference, which closed in Melbourne, Australia, on 25 July (2014).
AIDS 2014 concluded with a general sense that, despite all the progress made to date, the social determinants of the epidemic still need to be addressed. Existing punitive laws and stigma and discrimination were identified as some of the main barriers to bringing the epidemic under control. Catering for the needs of adolescents and key populations at higher risk of infection was identified as important for an effective response to AIDS, as well as focusing programmes in the geographical areas where most new HIV infections occur.*
The conference, organized by the International Aids Society, was attended by more than 16,000 members from more than 177 countries. The society is the world’s leading independent association of HIV professionals working at all levels on the global response to AIDS.
- New data from the Kirby Institute showed that, in Australia, HIV rates had been steadily rising since 1999. More than 26,000 people are now living with the virus, and HIV rates are at a 20-year-high….Unprotected sex between casual male partners seen as a leading cause. ((Worldwide: The number of people living with HIV rose from around 8 million in 1990 to 34 million by the end of 2011. The overall growth of the epidemic has stabilised in recent years. The annual number of new HIV infections has steadily declined and due to the significant increase in people receiving antiretroviral therapy, the number of AIDS-related deaths has also declined.)*** (Read Krista Blake: Teenage HIV Victim
- (It sounds counter-intuitive,) but patients given anti-cancer drugs, which increase the production of HIV-infected cells to three times above normal, was presented as a new approach to getting rid of the HIV virus. The new approach, called “kick and Kill,” kicks the virus out of where it is hiding in the body, enabling these cells to be traced and targeted with existing treatments. Although this is a step in the right direction there is still a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome before there can be talk about a cure.
- Bone marrow transplant treatment in two HIV-positive patients appear to have cleared them of their virus—they now have undetectable levels of HIV (but continue antiretroviral therapy for protective measures)…However, experts stress that this isn’t an HIV cure, since the procedure is costly and potentially dangerous.
- A new combination of drugs means that drug-resistant tuberculosis has reduced the TB cure rate from two years to as little as four months. This is important because TB remains the largest global killer of AIDS victims, killing one in five people with HIV.
- According to former United States president Bill Clinton, an AIDS-free generation is within reach—despite the fact that 2 million people are infected with HIV each year. Because new data suggests 70% of HIV-related deaths could be prevented, the international community must become better at detecting the disease early.
- There is a “disgraceful” lack of HIV funding from wealthy countries. Funding is needed to overcome the most critical final steps following 30 years of incredible advances in the fight against HIV and AIDS. According to UNAIDS, 19 of the 20 countries most affected by AIDS are in Africa, and 72% of all HIV victims live in the sub-Saharan region.