Scientific highlights from HIVR4P // Virtual

Scientific highlights from HIVR4P // Virtual

As HIVR4P // Virtual - the 4th HIV Research for Prevention Conference - comes to an end, here is a look at some of the highlights which emerged from the global scientific conference focused exclusively on HIV prevention research.

An extraordinary time in HIV prevention science

There was widespread agreement at HIVR4P // Virtual that HIV prevention science is advancing at an exceptional pace. Many of latest developments on promising new prevention tools and technologies were presented, discussed and debated at HIVR4P. Among these:

  • The presentation of results from the phase III Antibody-Mediated Prevention (AMP) trials provided the first detailed look at this emerging approach to prevention, which generated robust discussion throughout the conference and is certain to provoke further study and debate. A roundtable on the final day of HIVR4P helped attendees unpack the study results and begin to chart the future of HIV antibody research.
  • HIVR4P also hosted the presentation of interim results from HPTN 084 showing that long-acting injectable cabotegravir PrEP is safe and effective in women, and phase IIa data on once-monthly Islatravir oral PrEP – both of which bring long-acting prevention several important steps closer to reality.
  • Delegates heard the latest research results on multi-purpose prevention technologies (MPTs), which may one day soon prevent HIV, STIs and unintended pregnancies, and on a variety of gels, films and inserts. An important WHO recommendation on the dapivirine vaginal ring coincided with HIVR4P and gave this emerging, female-controlled HIV prevention method an important boost.
  • HIVR4P attendees got important updates on multiple HIV vaccine studies now in the field, including Mosaico and PrEPVacc, and discussed new insights into a range of new vaccine approaches in development.

The undeniable impact of COVID-19

While HIV prevention research and access continue to advance, global public health overall, and the HIV prevention response in particular, have been immeasurably impacted by COVID-19. At HIVR4P // Virtual, delegates shared strategies to reduce the impact of the new pandemic on access to prevention and on the conduct of prevention research. Delegates heard some impressive evidence on how longstanding efforts to increase access to PrEP and other prevention tools achieved some important successes, even in the face of the new pandemic.  

Attendees at both HIVR4P and the IAS COVID-19 Conference: Prevention heard about the many ways that HIV research in particular has advanced the record-setting search for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and about how the HIV experience has increased community engagement in research, and may help facilitate access to prevention tools as well. Also on the agenda at both meetings: what HIV can learn from the COVID-19 experience, especially as the field looks to expand fast and innovative vaccine research approaches, and harness some of the global attention and funding that COVID-19 has generated for broader and more integrated health responses.

New insights on product delivery make prevention realer for millions

The challenges of translating progress in HIV prevention research into real and accessible prevention options for people took centre stage at the meeting, with a number of session and satellites focused on strategies to improve prevention knowledge and access, better engage communities in the development, design and conduct of research, rethink and reframe adherence, and ensure that prevention research is ethically conducted. A satellite unpacking the results of the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial provided a deeper dive into the impact of universal test and treat strategies.  

Linked to this were important new data and lively debates about the best ways forward on HIV prevention goals, trends in global priorities and funding for the HIV prevention response and the most effective ways to influence local, national and global prevention policy.

Many questions for future technologies and trial designs

The way forward for prevention was a consistent theme throughout HIVR4P. Delegates debated the future of antibody research; the need to continually examine and redefine “success” in prevention; the most effective strategies to translate trial results into impact; and how to harness lessons from the field into effective product introduction strategies with real impact for people.   

Attendees also puzzled through the increasingly complex world of HIV prevention trial design and the promise and challenges of open data, and how new approaches to sharing and reviewing scientific information may change how all of us think and work in the years ahead.