Unlike international AIDS conferences I have attended in the past – which focused on advancing treatment protocols for individuals living with HIV/AIDS, the focus of this year’s International AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa centered on the global impact of AIDS, and the ways to bring the latest HIV drugs to the people living in the economically disadvantaged nations of the world.
In other words, this is good news. Much progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV – where financial resources are available – and now it’s time to make sure that people across the globe have access to the newest treatments available.
Fortunately for most of us here in the USA, we DO have access to a wide range of HIV treatment options, such as antiretroviral therapies (ART). As a result, almost all Americans living with HIV/AIDS who seek medical care and follow their recommended course of treatment are doing very well.
90-90-90 Goal for Ending the AIDS Epidemic
At the conference, the leadership of the United Nations AIDS organization (UNAIDS) presented an update on their ambitious 90-90-90 campaign to end the world-wide AIDS epidemic.
If you are not familiar with this campaign, it has three challenging (but achievable) goals that are designed to work together to reduce and eliminate AIDS transmission:
- The first goal is for 90% of all people living with HIV to know their status by the year 2020.
- The second goal is to provide sustained ART for 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection by the year 2020.
- The third goal is for 90% of those receiving ART to achieve viral suppression by the year 2020.
Providing Access to Optimal Antiretroviral Therapies (ART)
Much of the research on ART presented at the conference focused on how to optimize ART delivery, in an attempt to answer questions such as:
- What funding models can be put in place to help financially disadvantaged patients get access to ART?
- What is the relative efficacy of two drug ART combinations versus triple drug ART combinations?
- Which ART drug combinations are best suited for specific patient populations (for example, pregnant women)?
- Which ART drug combination are more ‘forgiving’ of patients that are less compliant with taking their medication every day, as prescribed by the doctor?
Study of a Unique ART Prophylactic Drug Delivery Mechanism for Women
Medical researchers at the conference presented the results of a double blind study of African women who received a month long dose of ART as a prophylactic to prevent HIV infection. The drug delivery mechanism was a vaginal ring infused with a combination of ART drugs. Similar to cervical cap used for birth control, the donut-shaped device is inserted in the vagina and placed on the cervix for up to four weeks.
The study found that women who were highly compliant with this method lowered their risk of HIV infection to levels comparable to those taking daily prophylactic doses of ART drugs (such as PrEP). Interestingly, the researchers were able to determine compliance using a novel procedure: as each patient had to exchange their old donut device each month for a new one, researchers could analyze the used devices to determine how much of the drug had been delivered, allowing them to calculate how many days the device was actually in use.
Experimental HIV Vaccine HVTN100 Passed Initial Safety Study, Now Proceeding to Drug Efficacy Trial
Researchers announced at the conference that the experimental HIV Vaccine HVTN100 has successfully passed its initial drug safety test, which was conducted with 210 volunteers. The experimental HIV HVTN100 Vaccine now moves forward to the next stage — a drug efficacy study with 5,400 human volunteers that will be conducted in South Africa starting later this year. This vaccine requires 5 injections over a twelve month period.
Amsterdam to Host the 22nd Annual International AIDS Conference in 2018
The International AIDS Society (IAS) announced that Amsterdam, Netherlands will host the next bi-annual 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018).
AIDS 2018 will be held on 22-27 July 2018 at the Amsterdam RAI and is expected to bring together some 18,000 participants from around the world.