It’s been an extraordinary week for HIV science. An extraordinary week for the HIV response. As 6,000 researchers, advocates, policy makers, funders and community leaders begin their journeys home from the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017) in Paris, here’s a quick summary of some of what made news inside the Palais des Congrès this past week and got news editors around the world talking too:
1. The future is injectable, as treatment for HIV and its co-infections continues to improve
The quest for better, easier-to-take treatments for HIV and related diseases continued its advance this week at IAS 2017. Results from the 96-week LATTE-2 study on a long-acting, injectable HIV treatment regimen raised the prospect that monthly or bimonthly injections of antiretroviral therapy (ART) could soon replace daily pills for people living with HIV, while a report from HPTN 077 supports the prospect of long-acting injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as well. A faster and less expensive treatment for HIV-associated cryptococcol meningitis could revolutionize treatment for the infection, which kills more than 100,000 people living with HIV each year. And the TAC ANRS 12311 study showed that direct-acting antiviral therapies are safe and effective for treating hepatitis C in sub-Saharan Africa, including for people co-infected with HIV.
2. The prevention toolbox goes bigger and broader, too
A Phase 1/2a vaccine study called APPROACH evaluated seven different “prime boost” HIV vaccine regimens and identified the most promising candidate for an upcoming proof-of-concept efficacy study. A new subgroup analysis of the IPERGAY study supports the on-demand use of PrEP for men who have sex with men (MSM), even if they have sex less frequently. Evidence builds that HIV self-testing can play a vital role in supporting rapid linkage to care for key populations, including female sex workers. And a large study in serodiscordant MSM couples supports the growing body of evidence that “Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)”.
3. Meeting targets saves lives
On the eve of IAS 2017, UNAIDS announced that a record-setting 53% of adults living with HIV worldwide were accessing therapy in 2016, and AIDS-related deaths have dropped by nearly 50% since 2005. As a growing number of countries reach or approach the 90-90-90 targets, however, numerous studies here highlighted regions, countries and populations that are not receiving the benefits of advances in HIV prevention and treatment. A breakthrough study featured new data from Swaziland demonstrating the remarkable nationwide impact of expanded HIV prevention and treatment in the nation with the highest HIV incidence in the world. The incidence of HIV in that country has almost halved in the past five years.
4. Exploring the links between HIV cure and cancer
Identifying new strategies to achieve the long-term remission or cure of HIV infection, courtesy of collaborations between HIV and cancer research, was the focus of a standing-room-only pre-conference meeting, the IAS HIV Cure & Cancer Forum. Sponsored by the IAS Towards an HIV Cure initiative, the Forum was the first major scientific gathering to address the links between, and potential synergies in the treatment of HIV and cancer.
5. Science matters… and so does money.
IAS set the tone for the week with the launch of the Paris Statement, which reiterated that “scientific knowledge is the backbone of the HIV response” and called for “an unfaltering commitment to research. “A golden age in HIV science” was the catchphrase heard repeatedly throughout the week. But IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker warned in her speech at the opening ceremony that if the proposed funding cuts by the US administration to HIV programmes and research became a reality, the impact on current and future scientific advances would be “devastating” for the global response to the epidemic. A new Kaiser Family Foundation/UNAIDS report showed that donor government funding for HIV fell 7% last year to the lowest level since 2010, while the Resource Tracking Working Group found the lowest annual investment in HIV prevention R&D in more than a decade. Advocates and policy makers meeting here called for concerted efforts to reverse the cuts and promote the tremendous impact, seen in hundreds of presentations at IAS 2017, of investing in HIV R&D, treatment and prevention.
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