World’s top HIV/AIDS researchers converge on Vancouver
July 16, 2015 - UBC and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) will welcome more than 6,000 of the world's
leading HIV/AIDS experts to Vancouver next week. Researchers, clinicians, community leaders and public
health experts will examine the latest scientific developments in HIV research at the 8 th
International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment & Prevention.
IAS 2015 is the world's largest scientific conference on HIV and AIDS. This year's event is organized
by the IAS in partnership with the UBC Division of AIDS and runs from July 19-22.
The IAS Conference was last held in Vancouver in 1996. At the time, nearly one British Columbian was
dying every day from AIDS. Today, a person living with HIV who is receiving sustained treatment and
care can expect to have a life expectancy approaching that of a non-infected person. In 2014, B.C.
repurposed its AIDS ward at St. Paul's Hospital due to the dramatic decline in AIDS cases in
“We have made great strides in overcoming HIV and AIDS and I'm so proud of the contributions made by
UBC researchers and the role of Vancouver and the province in tackling this epidemic,” said Arvind
Gupta, president of UBC. “The work, however, is far from finished; worldwide 35 million people
live with HIV and 1.5 million died of HIV-related illnesses in 2013. When the IAS Conference
begins next week, it offers a critical platform for researchers to meet and discuss how to
tackle this disease.”
At the 1996 conference, Dr. Julio Montaner, a professor of Medicine at UBC and director of the BC-CfE,
announced the discovery of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for HIV. HAART has emerged as
the new global standard for treating HIV and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
set an ambitious goal that 15 million people worldwide would receive HAART treatment by 2015.
At the IAS Conference in Toronto in 2006, Dr. Montaner introduced the BC-CfE-pioneered concept of
Treatment as Prevention® (TasP®). With this strategy, earlier and sustained access to HAART
reduces the amount of HIV virus in a person's blood and sexual fluids to undetectable levels, thus
preventing the spread of HIV.
B.C. adopted the TasP® strategy early and continues to be a world leader in the fight against
HIV/AIDS. Since 1994, the number of new HIV cases has declined 65 per cent and the number of new
AIDS cases has dropped by 88 per cent. In the same period, there has been an 83 per cent decline
in AIDS-related deaths.
TasP® now forms the backbone of the 90-90-90 strategy, which UNAIDS unveiled last year at the IAS
Conference in Sydney. The United Nations also adopted it as its HIV/AIDS strategy in September 2014.
The UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy aims to end AIDS globally by 2030. By 2020, the goal is to have 90 per
cent of people aware of their HIV status, 90 per cent of those with the disease on regular
antiretroviral therapy, and 90 per cent of those on treatment with undetectable viral loads.
“We are at a turning point and the end of AIDS could happen during my lifetime,” said Dr.
Julio Montaner, a professor of Medicine, Director of the BC-CfE, and a leading researcher
on HIV/AIDS and related illnesses. “The 90-90-90 goals put us on track, but leaders from
around the world must invest in treatment for those living with HIV. With the IAS
Conference in Vancouver, it is a time to honour the important progress made to
date and call to light the need for continued vigilance.”
Dr. Montaner has been the head of the UBC Division of AIDS since 2007; UBC was the first Canadian
university to create such a unit, and the third in North America.
VIDEO: Dr. Julio Montaner, on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention
BACKGROUND: UBC and BC-CfE involvement in IAS 2015
Plenary session: Evolving Drug Policy and the HIV Epidemic
Tuesday, July 21, 8:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Evan Wood, professor of Medicine at UBC and co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative (UHRI)
at BC-CfE, will discuss the successful and unsuccessful initiatives aimed at addressing the HIV
epidemic and other harms in the Downtown Eastside. He will examine lessons learned and where
to go from here.
Treatment as Prevention® and its impacts on local and international HIV rates – throughout the conference
Effects of opioid therapy for addiction on outcomes of HAART treatment – Monday, July 20
How South Africa is increasing rates of HIV treatment – Tuesday, July 21
The socioeconomic benefits of initiation of and adherence to HIV treatment – Tuesday, July 21
Factors associated with initiation of HAART among people who use injection drugs – Tuesday, July 21
Preventing hepatitis C among people who use drugs – Wednesday, July 22
Gender differences in HIV non-disclosure criminalization in Canada – Friday, July 17