Focus on new era in HIV prevention science

2014-10-27 15:20

HIV has become a manageable chronic disease. This is largely due to the availability of treatment which has seen many people living long and healthier with the infection.

However, scientists have warned that treatment alone will not stop the epidemic or reverse the destruction it has caused in society. And this is where prevention comes in.

Treatment and prevention can stop the HIV epidemic. Treatment will reduce the number of Aids-related illnesses and prevention will prevent those people who are still HIV negative from acquiring the virus.

It is in the backdrop of this that scientists have intensified their research on HIV prevention methods. Most of this research – vaccines, microbicides and antiretroviral treatment used as prevention – will be highlighted at the new biennial conference on biomedical HIV prevention research.

The four-day conference begins in Cape Town tomorrow. About 1300 local and international researchers, clinicians, private sector leaders, advocates, policy makers and public health experts from around the world will participate in this inaugural conference.

Helen Rees, founder and executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand and a co-chair of the conference said: “This premier HIV R4P meeting takes place at a critical moment in the AIDS epidemic and ushers in a new era in HIV prevention science.

“While previous meetings focused on individual prevention methods, R4P builds on a growing consensus that combination approaches will be most effective in driving down the global epidemic. Understanding, analysing and debating the crosscutting issues that impact all HIV prevention research will be a cornerstone of HIV R4P,” she explained.

More than 720 new research studies will be presented at the conference. Among the topics that will be covered are:

» the latest HIV antibody discoveries and their implications for vaccine development;

» research into microbicides and other female-controlled prevention methods;

» the use of antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV infection and transmission

» the potential for multipurpose prevention technologies, which could block HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, or prevent pregnancy, simultaneously; and

» the behavioural and adherence challenges of prevention.

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