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Introduction to AIDS 2012

August 1, 2012

AIDS 2012 - XIX Internaitonal AIDS Conference July 22-27 - Washington DC, USA - Turning the Tide Together

This supplement covers some of the presentations, studies and events from the 19th World AIDS Conference. 

Held every two years and organised by the International AIDS Society (IAS) this is the largest HIV medical meeting.

Links for further information and to the online coverage are included throughout.

Although originally an exclusively medical meeting, over the last decade, the programme has increasingly broadened to include social and political aspects of HIV.

Approximately 85% of over 3500 studies are now related to human rights, funding, policy, prevention, access to treatment and issues of stigma.

The majority of treatment-related studies were posters (a summary presented on a 2 x 1 metre display). Only 25 posters each day focused on basic science (Track A) and less than 75 on clinical studies (Track B). From over 80 hours of podcasts only five sessions are on treatment -- perhaps showing how effective treatment already is.

So although we report important scientific research, the webcasts from the social, political and human rights sessions provide the context for the main meeting.

With more than 22,000 delegates and thousands of studies and presentations, navigating the conference was sometimes frustrating. But within a few hours of the closing sessions the halls were empty and the venue prepared for computer games booked for the following week (where IAS stands for Increased Attack Speed). And it became easier to distill the point of all this diverse activity.

With World AIDS conferences, certain issues usually come to represent the meeting rather than headline results based on new scientific advances.

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This year included more people talking about ending AIDS (at least since 1998 when I first attended). But 30 years into the epidemic the conference theme is only tentatively aiming at 'Turning the Tide'. The optimism is still early days. Even with the tremendous advances in treatment and prevention and exciting early research into a cure, HIV will be with us for a while. Unfortunately, the AIDS-free generation that was referenced in many presentations, still looks unlikely to become a reality anytime soon.

However, treatment that has now been shown to both save lives and reduce infections. Expanding access to treatment makes one conference focus this year as the ability to mark 2012 for achieving 8,000,000 people on treatment.

Remembering the impossibly slow progress of the "3×5" campaign (to get 3 million people on treatment by 2005), it is significant that this conference, with its shift to focus on treatment access has sailed past this once-doubted goal.

Programme strengths this year included:

A platform for speeches

On policy and access, and for HIV positive people and activists from many different backgrounds and circumstances, leading many of the community responses to give their diverse perspectives on a world stage.

The best are passionate and rational strategies for change.

Asserting the focus on a cure 

Many sessions included early research related to a cure. This included a pre-meeting workshop and a scientific plan for the research goals and objective to this ultimate challenge.

Clinical data

Highlights included new drugs for HIV and TB, children’s health and other studies.

HIV prevention 

With an emphasis this year focusing on policy and implementation rather than new clinical data. This especially focused on Treatment as Prevention (TasP), Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), circumcision, needle-exchange, and infant and maternal access to treatment.

HIV and long-term health

The increasing focus on inflammation as a concern from untreated HIV and long-term health. This overlaps with ageing and the earlier use of HIV treatment.

To launch publications and reports

Many publications contain more detail and planning that could fit into a single symposium or poster. All are free online.

Other community events

The conference incuded a "Global Village" for many community events. This included performances and screenings.

This year as part of the conference, more than 50,000 quilts hung in the conference halls and were laid out along part of the National Mall Park near the Washington Memorial and 50 other locations in the city.

19th World AIDS Conference, Washington DC

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