At opening of XVIII International AIDS Conference, scientific, community and political leaders applaud recent progress toward universal access and urge continued momentum to 'finish what we've started'

July 18, 2010

18 July 2010 [Vienna, Austria]-Encouraged by recent progress but wary of signs of possible retrenchment, an estimated 20,000 participants from more than 185 countries have assembled in Vienna for the start of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) today. Under the theme of Rights Here, Right Now, experts described the state of the epidemic, noting the central role of human right protections to success, and outlined the critical choices facing world leaders in the year ahead.

"For the first time since the development of lifesaving treatments for HIV there is evidence of game-changing scenarios demonstrating that sustained and widespread access to antiretroviral treatment can save lives and help reverse the epidemic," said Dr. Julio Montaner, AIDS 2010 Chair, President of the International AIDS Society and Director of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada. "At this promising moment, we must stay the course."

Vienna was chosen as the host city for AIDS 2010 in part due to its proximity to Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), a region with a growing epidemic fueled primarily by injecting drug use. Conference delegates will examine the epidemic in EECA, as well as in all other regions. Home to two-thirds of all people living with HIV and AIDS, Southern Africa remains the most heavily affected region globally.

In a strong show of local support, Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Minister of Health Alois Stöger welcomed delegates. Other speakers included: South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe; European Union Commissioner of Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli; and community representatives Vladimir Zhovtyak and Alexandra (Sasha) Volgina, from Ukraine and Russia, respectively. Youth activist Rachel Arinii Judhistari from Indonesia, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and singer/songwriter/activist and UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox also addressed delegates. While at AIDS 2010, Ms. Lennox will headline a march and rally on human rights on Tuesday, 20 July:

"In the past five years, the coverage of HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries has increased tenfold to now reach five million people," said Dr. Brigitte Schmied, AIDS 2010 Local Co-

Chair and President of the Austrian AIDS Society. "Just ten years after AIDS 2000 in Durban, we have shown the sceptics that universal access is achievable; that this is a goal we can and must reach," she said. "Holding ourselves and our political leaders accountable for this goal, especially as the next Global Fund replenishment approaches, is our continued challenge in the months ahead."

Vienna Declaration: Leading with Science, not Ideology

The launch of the Vienna Declaration in the lead up to the conference emphasizes the importance of responding to AIDS with evidence-based policies and programmes. The official conference declaration calls for the reorientation of drug policy from the "War on Drugs" approach to an evidence-based approach that recognizes the human rights and medical needs of those who use illicit drugs. The current approach has impeded efforts to prevent HIV through the use of interventions such as needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy. Access to these interventions is limited despite evidence demonstrating their effectiveness. Nobel Laureates and world leaders in science, medicine, economics, and from civil society have already endorsed the declaration, as have hundreds of organizations and the former Presidents of Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. Individual and organizational endorsements may be made online at:

Evidence also makes clear that the success of HIV scale-up demands that strong human rights protections be in place for those most vulnerable to HIV, including women and girls, displaced populations, men who have sex with men, sex workers and youth.

Today's Opening Session included three presentations on the state of the epidemic:

HIV Epidemiology - Progress, Challenges and Human Rights Implications

Examining the existing knowledge on the course of the epidemic as it links to human rights concerns, Dr. Yves Souteyrand (France) of the World Health Organization stated that addressing human rights violations among vulnerable populations is essential for the future success of the global response. The HIV epidemic has stabilized globally, with annual numbers of deaths declining from 2.2 million in 2004 to 2 million in 2008, mostly due to impressive scale up of HIV treatment. However, HIV is still not under control, leading to around 2.7 million new infections each year.

New infections are particularly high in some key populations all over the world, such as migrants, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. Social marginalization, discrimination and even criminalization suffered by these groups have prevented production of robust epidemiological knowledge. Often, even when the knowledge exists, decision-makers continually fail to act.

Human Rights and the Response

In her presentation on the state of human rights in the epidemic, Paula Akugizibwe (South Africa) of AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa noted that the greatest barriers to achieving universal access are social, economic and political challenges. In order to accelerate progress and achieve sustained success, there is an urgent need for the HIV response to be based on concrete human rights principles. Key steps include ending laws that criminalize HIV transmission and marginalize people living with HIV, sexual minorities and sex workers. Such laws entrench stigma and preclude access to much-needed HIV interventions.

Current funding threats, which are beginning to have a destructive impact on health systems in low-income countries, have important human rights implications. The recent backtracking by donors on funding commitments to universal access and the failure of many low-income countries to demonstrate commitment to domestic financing of HIV treatment, highlight the volatility of health responses driven by political and financial expediency rather than respect for the right to health. The ongoing failure to mount a rights-based scale-up will not only violate the right to health and life of millions, but will destabilize health and socio-economic systems, requiring a belated response at a much greater cost.

Strategies for a Cure

Dr. Sharon Lewin (Australia) of the Alfred Hospital, Monash University and Burnet Institute outlined the multiple barriers to curing HIV, and examined potential avenues for achieving either a functional cure (long-term control of HIV in the absence of combination antiretroviral therapy) or a sterilizing cure (elimination of all HIV-infected cells). The major challenges include residual viral replication in patients receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) and HIV's ability to sequester itself in anatomical reservoirs. The most significant barrier, however, is the establishment of a latent or "silent" infection in resting CD4+ T-cells. According to Lewin, recent advances in understanding which cells are latently infected and how latency is established and maintained may one day lead to interventions that could potentially reverse latent infection.

Studies of patients who can naturally control HIV have demonstrated that a functional cure may be possible with the most consistent finding among these patients being a potent immune response to HIV. One potential approach to achieving a sterilizing cure includes the very early initiation of cART in combination with agents that can reverse latent infection. Drugs such as histone deacetylase inhibitors, currently used and licensed for the treatment of some cancers, and cytokines such as IL-7 or prostratin, show very promising results in vitro. She emphasized the urgent need for clinical trials for some of these more promising agents.

AIDS 2010 Scientific Programme

AIDS 2010 received more than 10,650 abstract submissions, 6,128 of which were accepted for presentation and/or inclusion in the CD-ROM. All accepted abstracts are available through the conference website.

Join the Conversation

For the first time, AIDS 2010 organizers are engaging delegates and those following the conference remotely through the use of social networking tools, including Facebook (/, Twitter (@aids2010) and an official conference blog ( that features a variety of posts from guest bloggers and conference organizers.

Visit for more programme information and comprehensive online coverage.
About the AIDS 2010 Organizers

AIDS 2010 is convened by the IAS, the world's leading independent association of HIV professionals, in partnership with a number of international, regional and local partners. International partners for AIDS 2010 include: Local and regional partners for AIDS 2010 include local scientific leadership and: MEDIA CONTACTS:

Regina Aragón (Rome)
International AIDS Society
+43 699 172 85 713

Christian Strohmann (Vienna)
AIDS 2010
+43 699 181 73002

Scott Sanders (DC)
High Noon Communications
+43 699 172 84 833

International AIDS Society

Related HIV Articles from Brightsurf:

BEAT-HIV Delaney collaboratory issues recommendations measuring persistent HIV reservoirs
Spearheaded by Wistar scientists, top worldwide HIV researchers from the BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to Cure HIV-1 Infection by Combination Immunotherapy (BEAT-HIV Collaboratory) compiled the first comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best measure the size of persistent HIV reservoirs during cure-directed clinical studies.

The Lancet HIV: Study suggests a second patient has been cured of HIV
A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient's blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal and presented at CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections).

Children with HIV score below HIV-negative peers in cognitive, motor function tests
Children who acquired HIV in utero or during birth or breastfeeding did not perform as well as their peers who do not have HIV on tests measuring cognitive ability, motor function and attention, according to a report published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Efforts to end the HIV epidemic must not ignore people already living with HIV
Efforts to prevent new HIV transmissions in the US must be accompanied by addressing HIV-associated comorbidities to improve the health of people already living with HIV, NIH experts assert in the third of a series of JAMA commentaries.

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.

NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.

Read More: HIV News and HIV Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to