2012 U.S. Conference on AIDS - Highlights from Pre-Conference Summit to End the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in America
October 1, 2012 - By AIDS.gov
In advance of the annual U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA), approximately 150 people gathered in Las Vegas over the weekend for the Summit
to End the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in America. The two-day event was organized by the National Minority AIDS Council(NMAC), the host of USCA, and attended by executive directors of community-based
organizations from across the country along with senior state and local health department staff, and several leaders from community health
The Summit opened with presentations by Dr. Julio Montaner and Dr. Ron Valdiserri. They set the stage for the discussions
that followed with important ideas about the implications of game-changing advances in our understanding of the benefits of biomedical
prevention and some principles for achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Dr. Montaner, Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia and Director of the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS , made
the case that treatment as prevention is the key to an AIDS-free generation. Sharing the science behind the concept with examples from the
experience of British Columbia, which has seen significant reductions in new HIV infections as they have scaled up HIV treatment efforts,
he noted that the primary benefit of earlier HIV treatment initiation is the reduction of morbidity and mortality among people living
with HIV. The well documented secondary benefit-the significant reduction HIV transmission as demonstrated by
the HPTN 052 study and
others-is not only huge, he argued, but also "free". Achieving these benefits is not simple, Dr. Montaner acknowledged. The difficult part,
he noted, is plugging the leaks in the treatment cascade so
that a greater number of people living with HIV are linked to and retained in care, initiate antiretroviral treatment, and achieve a
suppressed viral load. He shared the BC version of the cascade and observed candidly that we don't yet know exactly how plug all
of those leaks fully and well. But, he urged the participants to agree that the cascade serves as the best way to measure the
success of HIV programs and should be used as the "standard report card for all of our programs." He recognized important
roles for community-based organizations in addressing the leaks in the cascade, noting that there is only so much that
health care providers can do. Those roles include addressing HIV-related stigma, discrimination and, in some cases,
criminalization that complicate efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV. He also cited the important role of
CBO support of patient navigation activities.
Dr. Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , discussed several principles for
achieving an AIDS-free generation. He illustrated each principle with examples from recent HIV research and in so doing highlighted
possible approaches for community based organizations and other partners to examine as they work to assess and, possibly, re-tool
their roles in helping to end HIV/AIDS in America. Among the principles he shared was "Engage communities in finding solutions
to HIV/AIDS." To illustrate the principle, he discussed highlights from two studies demonstrating the efficacy of
community-based, non-clinical approaches to improving HIV care access and treatment adherence. Echoing, in part,
Dr. Montaner's call, another principle articulated by Dr. Valdiserri was "Engineer systems to incorporate
emerging research findings." On this, he quoted NMAC's Executive Director, Mr. Paul Kawata who has said,
"It's time to adapt.HIV prevention is changing.CBOs must change their service models to adapt."
Dr. Valdiserri noted that it is not only CBOs that must adapt, but all of the systems
involved in the response to HIV - federal, state and local governments, clinical care settings, and others - all need to make changes
to adapt to significant recent scientific advances in HIV prevention and treatment.
The Summit also featured the release of the " Declaration to END HIV/AIDS in America ." NMAC facilitated development of the Declaration by convening a blue ribbon panel, which included representatives from more than 100 community-based, public, and private organizations as well as governmental leaders and people living with HIV/AIDS. The Declaration discusses how to translate groundbreaking policy and science developments into an end to HIV/AIDS. Dr. Benny Primm, a founder and Chair Emeritus of NMAC, invited the participants to sign the declaration, rededicating themselves to the mission of ending HIV/AIDS in America and to implement that commitment through all they do when they return to work at their organizations following USCA.
Over the remainder of the two-day Summit, the participants heard from a number of other thought leaders on key topics: HIV
testing and diagnosis; linkage and access to care; retention in care; and treatment. The HIV leaders from across the country
participating in the Summit held several rounds of intensive, in-depth small group conversations to unpack what the
thought leaders were sharing and discus their own experiences and concerns as they reflected on how they and their
organizations will move forward in revitalized ways to better serve their communities and help bring us closer
to ending HIV/AIDS in America.
Webcasts of the conference sessions can be found at the following link:
For more information, please visit www.geovax.com.
Check back with the AIDS.gov blog later today. We'll be posting highlights from Sunday's USCA opening day plenary sessions;
and tomorrow we'll share highlights from the second day of the conference.
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