July 25, 2012

AIDS 2012: New prevention and treatment options at the forefront

Communications Officer

As the XIX International AIDS Conference continues in Washington this week, research for new tools to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS is standing out as a major theme. Below, we provide a summary of various sessions that have touched on research and product development topics.

The US Congress and the Global AIDS Epidemic: Amid a group of protestors on Wednesday, former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) moderated a session with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). When discussing her newly released bill—the Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012—Lee said that even in these “difficult” financial times, “we must move forward toward an AIDS-free generation.” Several other panelists stressed that a large part of achieving an AIDS-free generation will involve research for new products to prevent, test, and treat the disease. Speaking about recent scientific advances to create an HIV/AIDS cure, Rubio said that increased investment in innovation is critical to advancing these efforts. Coons echoed these comments, saying, “We need to double-down, we need to invest in basic science, invest in translational science, a vaccine, and new drugs. We need to innovate.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) at the International AIDS Conference. Photo credit: PATH.

Effective Solutions to Combat HIV: Increasing Evidence of the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases on HIV Transmission and Disease Progression: In a session that examined the link between HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), Giuseppe Pantaleo, chief of the Division of Immunology and Allergy at the University of Lausanne, said that 25 percent of people living with HIV worldwide are also co-infected with an NTD. He added that because of the high co-infection rate, there is a great need to focus on research, such as the clinical links between HIV and NTDs. Maria Aparecida Shikanai Yasuda from the University of Sao Paulo reiterated this point, saying that research is needed to develop new NTD drugs that are less toxic and more efficient. Astrid-Christina Koch, with the Delegation of the European Union to the United States, said that the second phase of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership will fund more stages of research. Currently the partnership covers research Phases II and III but will expand to cover Phases I through IV. This expansion could go a long way in addressing product development for NTDs and other global health diseases.

Microbicides, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and vaccines continue to take center stage at AIDS 2012. At a session to discuss The Role of Vaccines in Ending the Pandemic, panelists stressed that vaccines have proven to be one of the best, cost-effective global health solutions, and that research needs to continue to develop a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Margaret McCluskey from the US Agency for International Development quoted Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who has called an HIV/AIDS vaccine the “holy grail.” During a session on Wednesday on Microbicides and PrEP: Back to Basics, Ian McGowan from the University of Pittsburgh emphasized that a range of microbicide and PrEP formulations—from intra-muscular injections to vaginal and rectal products, rings, and oral pills—are needed to provide men and women worldwide with a range of HIV prevention choices that best fit their specific needs.

Kim Lufkin is the GHTC’s communications officer.

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