Funding cuts and political will stand in the way of science potentially overcoming HIV/AIDS says President of the International AIDS Society
Africa's largest conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections to open in Addis Ababa Sunday, December 4
2 December 2011 - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - More than 10,000 participants from around the world, including government representatives, scientists, health workers, policy makers, and people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV), will gather in Addis Ababa on Sunday 4th December for the opening of the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2011).
International AIDS Society (IAS) spokespeople will use this occasion to highlight the growing momentum in HIV scientific research, while warning that recent funding cuts and the Global Fund's decision to stop making new grants until 2014 could prevent these scientific discoveries from being converted into practical solutions where they are needed most, and potentially undo years of progress in the HIV response.
In the ICASA 2011 non abstract driven session HIV Science Update: From Rome to Addis , moderated by IAS President Elly Katabira, speakers will summarize the major findings reported at the 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011) held earlier this year in Rome, Italy. There will be a special focus on the new evidence demonstrating the enormous benefits of HIV treatment as prevention.(1)
The basis of the treatment as prevention strategy is that early HIV treatment reduces the level of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels. Not only does this improve the health of the HIV positive person, at the same time it decreases the level of HIV in genital fluids in the genital tract to undetectable levels, thereby reducing the likelihood of HIV transmission by 96 per cent.(2) This could greatly reduce the number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV is predominantly spread by heterosexual transmission.
The funding needed to implement such programmes, however, is lacking and instead of scaling up access to HIV treatment, the increased difference between donors' commitments and the actual funds they delivered to the Global Fund means that the organization will only be able to finance essential services for on-going programmes that come to their conclusion before 2014.
"The dramatic benefits of HIV treatment as prevention presented during IAS 2011 demonstrated beyond doubt that the strategy has the potential to alter the course of the epidemic," said IAS President Elly Katabira. "At IAS 2011, the science gave us so many reasons to celebrate. Here at ICASA 2011, however, the impetus is on making donors understand that these scientific breakthroughs are worth little if economic and political engagement are lacking. The science is now outpacing funding but no matter what breakthroughs in science are made, they cannot help people living with or at risk of becoming infected with HIV if the financial commitment is not there."
"According to our colleagues on the ground, the devastating effects of the funding shortage were already becoming clear in sub-Saharan Africa before the Global Fund announcement last week," said IAS Executive Director Bertrand Audoin who is attending the conference. "Cameroon and Zimbabwe may soon no longer be able to support people already on treatment, and the Democratic Republic of Congo is capping the number of people able to start antiretroviral therapy (ART). In Mozambique, funding problems have prevented the country from providing earlier treatment and better quality drugs, as per the WHO-recommended guidelines," concluded Audoin.
Notes to Editors
(1) Treatment Is Prevention: The Proof Is Here, Oral Abstract Session at IAS 2011, Results from HPTN 052 clinical trial, TDF2 study and Partners Prep study: http://pag.ias2011.org/session.aspx?s=98
(2) Results from HPTN 052: http://pag.ias2011.org/session.aspx?s=98
About the IAS
The International AIDS Society (IAS) is the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals, with over 16,000 members from more than 196 countries working at all levels of the global response to AIDS. Our members include researchers from all disciplines, clinicians, public health and community practitioners on the frontlines of the epidemic, as well as policy and programme planners. The IAS is the custodian of the biennial International AIDS Conference, which will be held in Washington, D.C., in July 2012, and lead organizer of the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.
www.iasociety.org | www.aids2012.org
For more information:
Sian Bowen (Geneva, Switzerland)
IAS Senior Manager, Communications
el: +41 22 710 0864
Lindsey Rodger (Geneva, Switzerland)
IAS Communications and Media Officer
Tel: +41 22 710 0822
Reproduced with permission - "International AIDS Society (IAS)"
International AIDS Society (IAS)