Eid Al Adha

IAS 2021: Berlin hosts 11th Conference on HIV Science

By Olufunke Fayemi, Lagos

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The world’s most influential meeting on HIV research has commenced in Germany with stakeholders converging virtually to deliberate more on new ways in HIV sciences. The conference is expected to come to an end on July 21, 2021 with

The 11th International AIDS Society (IAS 2021) Conference on HIV Science will feature discussions and research on the development of new long-acting anti-retroviral including lenacapavir, Covid-19 in people with HIV and the impact of the pandemic on HIV care, scale-up of oral PrEP in diverse settings. Also, it will investigate how people would like to receive their HIV care, including injectables, discuss new oral therapies for TB, treatment issues for children and transgender health.

Fighting HIV
German-Chancellor, Angela Merkel spoke at the opening of the Conference on Sunday and said that HIV and other infectious diseases can only be fought with worldwide cooperation just as the Covid-19 pandemic is being fought.

According to her, the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has made world leaders lose sight of the success achieved in research on HIV/AIDS.

“Infectious diseases confront us with global challenges and so the fight against these diseases is only conceivable in the form of worldwide cooperation.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen how international cooperation has enabled multiple effective vaccines to be developed in record time.

“However, we have also witnessed how in the shadow of this pandemic achievements made in the fight against HIV have slipped from our grasp and sexual violence has increased which in turn has led to an increase in HIV infection rates.

“AIDS must not be allowed to fade into the background due to Covid-19 because the ongoing fight against AIDS too, can only succeed through global cooperation. The countries of this world can and must learn from one another”, she said.

Lack of global cooperation
In her address, the IAS President and IAS 2021 Conference Co-chair, Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman sadly observed that the lack of global cooperation in the fight against HIV/AIDS has made the pandemic linger unresolved for 40 years.

She said that if the energy put in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is put into stopping the spread of HIV, the disease would have reduced drastically over the years.

“It’s been 40 years since the first reported cases of the disease now called AIDS, one of the worst pandemics in human history. To date, we have lost nearly 35 million people to AIDS.

“The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has leveraged HIV science to advance with unprecedented speed. In barely a year, we have not one, but several strong vaccines.

” It has also reminded us that science is deeply political and just as evidence can drive sound policy, the politicization of science can drive misinformation and, ultimately, distrust.

” Just as 40 years of HIV experience informed the Covid-19 response, the scientific breakthroughs and political will achieved in that response must now propel our efforts to end HIV.

“We have new opportunities to adapt and enhance Covid-19 approaches and sustain global attention and commitment to prioritizing public health. This includes harnessing digital technology and community partnerships in research and health care delivery”, she said.

Impact of Covid-19
The IAS 2021 Conference Co-chair, Hendrik Streeck also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had interrupted the Programmes and activities of UNAIDS and joint partners which made HIV infections go undetected.

“We do not know yet the precise impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on HIV and AIDS, but what we already know is nothing but alarming. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many inequalities worldwide.

“UNAIDS programmes and activities of joint partners were interrupted or could not be implemented, despite all efforts and best intentions.

“HIV infections have gone undetected. Life-saving drugs have not been distributed. While the Covid-19 pandemic is a devastating catastrophe for so many, so are the collateral damages in health, economic and social inequalities that put many in precarious situations”, he said.

He noted that it has been proven that political will and scientific effort pays as it shows in the efforts of governments to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lack of political will to fight HIV
Streeck also lamented that with the political will and International cooperation put into combating the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists have been able to come up with eight licensed vaccines and over 30 clinical trials in phase III but stated that this is not the case with HIV/AIDS which is into its fourth decade.

“In the year we are celebrating the tragic anniversary of the first diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS, only eight HIV vaccines have entered phase III, even though we are 40 years into the pandemic.

” While HIV cannot be compared to SARS-CoV2 in structure and complexity, one point is clear: with political will, we can achieve more in the fight against HIV and AIDS. HIV is still a global problem.

“While we are hopefully on our way to ending one pandemic, the other has endured far too long. The time is now to end HIV and AIDS. We have the means and we have the opportunity”, he added.

IAS 2021 Conference on HIV Science
The IAS 2021 Conference on HIV Science is a biennial conference and the world’s most influential meeting on HIV research.

According to the IAS 2021 Website, the 2021 biennial conference will present the critical advances in basic, clinical and operational research that moves science into policy and practice.

” Through its open and inclusive programme development, the meeting sets the gold standard of HIV research featuring highly diverse and cutting-edge studies.

” IAS 2021 participants can expect a full conference experience via an easy-to-use digital platform that connects researchers, health care providers, advocates and policymakers,” the IAS 2021 website stated.

 

Nneka Ukachukwu

 

 

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