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12th Retrovirus Conference on the Web

January/February 2005

The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) is the most important AIDS science meeting of the year. The conference organizers run a tight ship with attendance limited to working scientists and a sprinkling of community members involved with treatment advocacy and education. It is not a trade show and there are no pharmaceutical company pavilions, free pens or slick sales pitches at CROI.

Yet as exclusive at CROI is, it is also the most accessible HIV meeting of the year owing to a commitment to webcast nearly every important session on the Internet. This year, over 32 hours of plenary talks, symposiums and special sessions are available for free viewing at The webcasts offer audio and synchronized slides for those with slow Web connections and streaming video plus slides on speedier hookups. If you want a glimpse into the state of the art of HIV research, these webcasts let you see and hear the people and ideas that represent the latest understanding on nearly every aspect of the virus and the immune system. You may not understand everything you hear, but if you are truly curious about what makes HIV tick, then many of these sessions will be fascinating and informative.

Here are some highlights of CROI 2005 on the Web:

Daniel Douek: Making Sense of HIV Disease Pathogenesis

Friday, 9:00 am
Douek blows the lid off what we thought about early HIV disease progression. A stunning picture of how HIV ravages lymphoid tissue in the gut within days of a new infection.


Bernard M Branson: Symposium: Rolling Out Rapid HIV Tests in the United States

Wednesday, 4:00 pm
There is growing pressure to change how HIV is diagnosed in the U.S. Branson traces the long and winding path to rapid testing.

Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch: Symposium: The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Eastern Europe

Wednesday, 4:00 pm
Injection drug use is driving the explosive spread of HIV in Russia. So why are inflexible national drug policies standing in the way of arresting this epidemic? No science jargon here, just the hard reality.

Grant Colfax: Symposium: The Epidemiology of Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behavior among Men Who Have Sex with Men: Implications for HIV Prevention Interventions

Wednesday, 4:00 pm
Substance use -- including crystal meth -- is a key factor in the continuing transmission of HIV among gay men in the U.S. But what interventions have been shown to decrease substance use and cut the risk? Jargon free!

Bob Grant: Research Overview: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Friday, 12:15 pm
Since a protective vaccine may be years away, the idea of using tenofovir (Viread) in people with high risk behaviors is being studied. It worked in monkeys (for a while). It may be safe. But can it put a dent in runaway infection rates in the developing world?

James McIntyre: Plenary: Controversies in the Use of Nevirapine for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission

Wednesday, 9:00 am
For an update on the never-ending nevirapine story and current controversies in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, this webcast is must viewing.

Julie Overbaugh: Plenary: The Biology of HIV-1 Transmission and Re-Infection

Thursday, 9:00 am
Some people still don't believe in "superinfection." That's the medical term for acquiring a new HIV infection on top of an existing HIV infection. But HIV superinfection is a real possibility and may occur as frequently as first infections do. Barebackers take note!

Special Symposium on the "Super Bug"

Thursday, 6:00 pm
A special session was called to address the press frenzy over an announcement that a new, potentially virulent and drug-resistant strain of HIV had been found. Overall, this was a remarkably dull take on a hot topic, but these two presentations are worth a look:

David Ho: Case Report of Recent Infection by a Multi-Drug Resistant, Dual-Tropic HIV-1 in Association With Rapid Progression to AIDS
Significant finding or headline-hogging scare tactic? David Ho lays out the facts about the New Yorker with multi-drug-resistant virus and a fast-moving case of AIDS.

Harold Jaffe: Public Health Aspects of the NYC Case
The former CDC head takes a common sense look at the real prevention issues behind the hype.

These sessions might be tough going for the uninitiated, but it's surprising how quickly one starts to pick up the key concepts after hearing them a few times. Of course, plenty of people don't want to hear about it, and that's fine too. Let's face it: there's no red carpet or paparazzi at CROI -- just several thousand very smart people working hard to end this epidemic. Give them a play.

View Webcasts

CROI's webcast technology is easy to navigate. Select the day and session you want to view and the program begins to play in a separate window. Click on "Index" and you can jump to the speaker or topic that interests you. On some browsers you can even play the videos at a higher speed, which lets you move through dull stuff at a faster pace. You can also slow down the playback to take notes, which offers the added amusement of making some of the world's most prominent scientists sound like they are on quaaludes.

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This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.