Letter from the executive director

Dear members and friends,

This month marks my one-year anniversary as the Executive Director of the International AIDS Society, an organization I’m honoured to represent. In that time, under the guidance of our President and the Governing Council, the IAS has embarked on a process to fundamentally change how we contribute to the fight against HIV.

These are changes that many organizations go through, but the shift at the IAS has been part of a deliberate effort to play a more active role in the most urgent HIV/AIDS challenges. It all stems from conversations I have had with many of you about the direction and purpose of the IAS. You made clear to me that we need to better define our part in the global health landscape. Most specifically, you want IAS membership to be more than a box you tick on your way to a conference.

I’ve heard you.

Our role as a neutral convener of invested partners has been valued by many, but it is not enough to help achieve the ambitious targets set in front of us. Yes, we need to be more than a conference planner, and, frankly, we have been for some time. But we haven’t done enough to demonstrate our actions and our impact.

The IAS’ Towards an HIV Cure initiative is credited with establishing the first global scientific strategy on HIV cure research. It is led by individuals who dedicated their lives to this science long before it became commonly accepted. Our paediatric and adolescent research initiative, CIPHER, is the largest paediatric HIV cohort collaboration to date, representing 20 percent of children on treatment worldwide.

Our conferences have always been more than just meetings. AIDS 2012 was fundamental to ending the United States’ 22-year restriction on travel for people living with HIV. AIDS 2014 helped end the last remaining HIV-specific criminalization law in Australia. This legacy goes back even further. The momentum from the 1996 conference in Vancouver led to the first 75,000 people starting triple drug therapy within one week of that meeting.

Often these milestones were achieved because of the hard work of our partners who knew how to leverage the platform we helped create. We can be more actively involved in this work. By boldly representing our thousands of members, we can affect the change we are all desperate to see.

I feel strongly we need to be the independent voice of front-line problem-solvers and clinical experts around the world – advocating for the power of HIV science and the importance of its implementation. There are many global AIDS advocates, but few who can speak with the scientific authority of the IAS, our unique membership and leadership, and our convening power.

Which leads me to my final point. We can’t get from where we are to where we need to be without our members – without you.

Starting during the opening session at IAS 2015 and continuing over the next 3 months, we will invite many of you to share your perspective through focus groups, one-on-one discussions, and online surveys. Your inputs are key in influencing these organizational shifts. I invite you to share your insights by visiting or emailing [email protected] with your comments. I look forward to hearing from you, because we cannot do this alone.

We are stronger together against HIV.

Owen Ryan
Executive Director