Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BIS # 1053 HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE XVII INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE

Matthew Coutinho sdb
NASHIK, AUGUST 6, 2008: The International AIDS Conference is convened every other year by the International AIDS Society (IAS), the world’s leading independent association of HIV professionals with more than 10,000 members from 172 countries. This year’ conference is hosted by Mexico City and runs from August 3 to 8. The Conference (AIDS 2008) began with an assessment of the state of the global epidemic. “With only two years to go until the 2010 deadline for universal access set by world leaders, we must redouble our commitment to scaling up all proven HIV prevention strategies,” said Dr. Luís Soto Ramírez, Local Co-Chair of AIDS 2008 and Coordinator of the Clinical Care Committee of Mexico’s National AIDS Council. The conference’s opening plenary featured presentations by leading global experts on epidemiological aspects of the epidemic, recent advancements and challenges. Dr. Geoffrey Garnett (United Kingdom) noted the need for new methods of analyzing HIV prevalence and risks of infection which can help targeted prevention strategies. Regarding the analyses of risk behaviour, he illustrated the importance of including social and structural determinants of HIV risk, along with behavioural and biological risk factors. In another intervention, Dr. Jaime Sepulveda (Mexico) noted that attention to and resources for AIDS are at all-time highs, but the world has only scratched the surface of possibilities in responding to the epidemic. Sepulveda called for radically increased investments in prevention research, evaluation, and delivery of services, as well as accelerated research on promising prevention methods, including a vaccine. Sepulveda’s views were reiterated by Alex Coutinho (Uganda), who called for greater political leadership from all countries and accountability at all levels as essential for stopping the epidemic. Citing the results in both treatment and prevention scale up in countries with sustained leadership, such as Rwanda and Tanzania, he made a passionate call for dynamic leadership as a path toward meeting the challenges ahead. Elisabet Fadul (Dominican Republic) outlined a broad and urgent youth HIV/AIDS agenda, with comprehensive rights-based and evidence-based plans to provide access for young people. Highlighting the data that young people (15-24 years of age) account for 40% of new infections worldwide, she noted that HIV prevention and treatment programs are failing to effectively reach young people. To reverse this course, she called for actions and policies that engage youth, especially young PLHIV, as respected partners in developing and implementing programs that address their needs and diversity. The above article has been adapted by Matthew Coutinho from the official press release of the conference. More details are available on Matthew’s blog: http://mattc-thinks.blogspot.com/

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