At Opening of XVIII International AIDS Conference, Scientific, Community and
Political Leaders Applaud Recent Progress Toward Universal Access and
Urge Continued Momentum to "Finish What We've Started"
Protection of Human Rights, Widespread Use of Evidence-based Interventions and
Sustained Financing Highlighted as the Three Pillars of Success
18 July 2010 [Vienna, Austria] - Encouraged by recent progress but wary of signs of possible
retrenchment, an estimated 20,000 participants from more than 185 countries have assembled in
Vienna for the start of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) today. Under the theme of
Rights Here, Right Now, experts described the state of the epidemic, noting the central role of human
right protections to success, and outlined the critical choices facing world leaders in the year ahead.
"For the first time since the development of lifesaving treatments for HIV there is evidence of gamechanging
scenarios demonstrating that sustained and widespread access to antiretroviral treatment can
save lives and help reverse the epidemic," said Dr. Julio Montaner, AIDS 2010 Chair, President of the
International AIDS Society and Director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver,
Canada. "At this promising moment, we must stay the course."
Vienna was chosen as the host city for AIDS 2010 in part due to its proximity to Eastern Europe and
Central Asia (EECA), a region with a growing epidemic fueled primarily by injecting drug use.
Conference delegates will examine the epidemic in EECA, as well as in all other regions. Home to twothirds
of all people living with HIV and AIDS, Southern Africa remains the most heavily affected region
In a strong show of local support, Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Minister of Health Alois Stöger
welcomed delegates. Other speakers included: South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe;
European Union Commissioner of Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli; and community
representatives Vladimir Zhovtyak and Alexandra (Sasha) Volgina, from Ukraine and Russia,
respectively. Youth activist Rachel Arinii Judhistari from Indonesia, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel
Sidibé and singer/songwriter/activist and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox
also addressed delegates. While at AIDS 2010, Ms. Lennox will headline a march and rally on human
rights on Tuesday, 20 July: www.hivhumanrightsnow.org.
"In the past five years, the coverage of HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries has
increased tenfold to now reach five million people," said Dr. Brigitte Schmied, AIDS 2010 Local Co-Chair and
President of the Austrian AIDS Society. "Just ten years after AIDS 2000 in Durban, we have
shown the sceptics that universal access is achievable; that this is a goal we can and must reach," she
said. "Holding ourselves and our political leaders accountable for this goal, especially as the next Global
Fund replenishment approaches, is our continued challenge in the months ahead."
Vienna Declaration: Leading with Science, not Ideology
The launch of the Vienna Declaration in the lead up to the conference emphasizes the importance of
responding to AIDS with evidence-based policies and programmes. The official conference declaration
calls for the reorientation of drug policy from the "War on Drugs" approach to an evidence-based
approach that recognizes the human rights and medical needs of those who use illicit drugs. The
current approach has impeded efforts to prevent HIV through the use of interventions such as needle
and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy. Access to these interventions is limited
despite evidence demonstrating their effectiveness. Nobel Laureates and world leaders in science,
medicine, economics, and from civil society have already endorsed the declaration, as have hundreds
of organizations and the former Presidents of Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. Individual and
organizational endorsements may be made online at: www.viennadeclaration.com.
Evidence also makes clear that the success of HIV scale-up demands that strong human rights
protections be in place for those most vulnerable to HIV, including women and girls, displaced
populations, men who have sex with men, sex workers and youth.
Today’s Opening Session included three presentations on the state of the epidemic:
HIV Epidemiology - Progress, Challenges and Human Rights Implications
Examining the existing knowledge on the course of the epidemic as it links to human rights concerns,
Dr. Yves Souteyrand (France) of the World Health Organization stated that addressing human rights
violations among vulnerable populations is essential for the future success of the global response. The
HIV epidemic has stabilized globally, with annual numbers of deaths declining from 2.2 million in 2004
to 2 million in 2008, mostly due to impressive scale up of HIV treatment. However, HIV is still not under
control, leading to around 2.7 million new infections each year.
New infections are particularly high in some key populations all over the world, such as migrants, men
who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. Social marginalization, discrimination and even
criminalization suffered by these groups have prevented production of robust epidemiological
knowledge. Often, even when the knowledge exists, decision-makers continually fail to act.
Human Rights and the Response
In her presentation on the state of human rights in the epidemic, Paula Akugizibwe (South Africa) of
AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa noted that the greatest barriers to achieving universal
access are social, economic and political challenges. In order to accelerate progress and achieve
sustained success, there is an urgent need for the HIV response to be based on concrete human rights
principles. Key steps include ending laws that criminalize HIV transmission and marginalize people
living with HIV, sexual minorities and sex workers. Such laws entrench stigma and preclude access to
much-needed HIV interventions.
Current funding threats, which are beginning to have a destructive impact on health systems in lowincome
countries, have important human rights implications. The recent backtracking by donors on
funding commitments to universal access and the failure of many low-income countries to demonstrate
commitment to domestic financing of HIV treatment, highlight the volatility of health responses driven by
political and financial expediency rather than respect for the right to health. The ongoing failure to
mount a rights-based scale-up will not only violate the right to health and life of millions, but will
destabilize health and socio-economic systems, requiring a belated response at a much greater cost.
Strategies for a Cure
Dr. Sharon Lewin (Australia) of the Alfred Hospital, Monash University and Burnet Institute outlined the
multiple barriers to curing HIV, and examined potential avenues for achieving either a functional cure
(long-term control of HIV in the absence of combination antiretroviral therapy) or a sterilizing cure
(elimination of all HIV-infected cells). The major challenges include residual viral replication in patients
receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) and HIV's ability to sequester itself in anatomical
reservoirs. The most significant barrier, however, is the establishment of a latent or "silent" infection in
resting CD4+ T-cells. According to Lewin, recent advances in understanding which cells are latently
infected and how latency is established and maintained may one day lead to interventions that could
potentially reverse latent infection.
Studies of patients who can naturally control HIV have demonstrated that a functional cure may be
possible with the most consistent finding among these patients being a potent immune response to HIV.
One potential approach to achieving a sterilizing cure includes the very early initiation of cART in
combination with agents that can reverse latent infection. Drugs such as histone deacetylase inhibitors,
currently used and licensed for the treatment of some cancers, and cytokines such as IL-7 or prostratin,
show very promising results in vitro. She emphasized the urgent need for clinical trials for some of
these more promising agents.
AIDS 2010 Scientific Programme
AIDS 2010 received more than 10,650 abstract submissions, 6,128 of which were accepted for
presentation and/or inclusion in the CD-ROM. All accepted abstracts are available through the
Join the Conversation
For the first time, AIDS 2010 organizers are engaging delegates and those following the conference
remotely through the use of social networking tools, including Facebook (/aids2010.com), Twitter
(@aids2010) and an official conference blog (http://blog.aids2010.org) that features a variety of posts
from guest bloggers and conference organizers.
Visit www.aids2010.org for more programme information and comprehensive online coverage.
About the AIDS 2010 Organizers
AIDS 2010 is convened by the IAS, the world’s leading independent association of HIV professionals, in partnership with
a number of international, regional and local partners. International partners for AIDS 2010 include:
• Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), including its co-sponsors, the World Health Organization
(WHO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
• International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO)
• Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+)/International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
• World YWCA
• Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC)
Local and regional partners for AIDS 2010 include local scientific leadership and:
• City of Vienna
• Government of Austria
• Aids Hilfe Wien
• Austrian AIDS Society
• East European & Central Asian Union of PLWH (ECUO)
• European AIDS Clinical Society (EACS)
• European Commission
Regina Aragón (Rome)
International AIDS Society
+39 329 445 9590
Christian Strohmann (Vienna)
AIDS 2010 Local Secretariat
+43 699 181 73002
Scott Sanders (Washington, DC)
High Noon Communications
+1 202 332 2303