IAS 2013: Innovations in HIV Testing, Cure and Care

The world’s largest open scientific conference on HIV/AIDS – the 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 30 June-3 July 2013. Held every two years, the conference, which is one of the world´s leading open HIV scientific forums, provides a unique opportunity for the world’s leading scientists, clinicians, public health experts and community leaders to examine the latest developments in HIV-related research, and to explore how scientific advances can be translated quickly into effective interventions to prevent and treat HIV, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

This year the conference aims to focus upon strategies for pursuing an HIV cure; the impact of starting antiretroviral therapy at higher CD4 counts; and innovative models for HIV testing and care. “Functional cures” and the benefits of early antiretroviral therapeutic treatment have been attracting international attention since researchers at the IAS 2011 conference announced that the HPTN 052 trial determined that starting early antiretroviral therapy (ART), regardless of CD4 count, rather than waiting for the CD4 count to fall to 250 lowered the risk of HIV transmission in HIV-discordant couples by 96%. Thus Treatment as Prevention (TasP) was formally born. Over the past two years there has been considerable research undertaken on the benefits of early antiretroviral therapeutic treatment in addition to the implementation aspects of TasP.

The main objectives of IAS 2013 conference are to:

  • Highlight the state of the HIV epidemic and the progresses made in HIV research and prevention in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Focus on the latest biomedical HIV science for clinical practice and prevention
  • Provide new insights into HIV vulnerability, disease progression and prevention interventions
  • Review implementation science research by scaling up research and prevention especially in resource limited/ policy constraint environments
  • Provide opportunities for professional development, scientific collaboration, debate and dialogue among HIV professionals
  • Increase public awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS with a focus on the implications of new scientific research on the global response
  • Advocate for keeping the HIV issue on top of the global agenda

Keynote speaker Dr Steve Deeks, an HIV cure specialist, is expected to outline his latest work looking at HIV as an inflammatory disease, describing how inflammation affects health during antiretroviral treatment and how this process might affect cure studies.

Deborah Persaud, lead researcher on the “Mississippi Baby” study, would talk about the potential for curing new born infants with HIV infection by following the strategy used with this baby – providing standard antiretroviral therapy within the first days of life while HIV infection is still being confirmed. The case suggests that very early treatment may prevent establishment of latent HIV infection, which is an obstacle to curing people with chronic HIV infection.

Laurent Hocqueloux, one of the doctors entrusted with the care of the so called VISCONTI Cohort of 14 patients will present another study of 283 people starting ART during chronic infection at various CD4 count levels.

Deliberations at the conference would also centre on innovative models for HIV care and testing that include (i) effects of antenatal care-HIV service integration on utilization of prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, and mother-to-child HIV transmission; (ii) enhancing male partner HIV-1 counselling and testing through home visits during antenatal care during pregnancy;  (iii) national expansion program for antiretroviral treatment to rural health centre level through mobile HIV services; (iv) community ART delivery models for sustaining patients retention and good adherence; (v) client-centred HIV testing and counselling as a strategy for scaling up access to HIV prevention and care services; and (vi) use of financial incentives to improve engagement of drug users in HIV testing and follow-up.

IAS 2013 is being organized by the International AIDS Society (IAS), in partnership with the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA), University of Malaya-- a centre established in 2007 to undertake HIV-related research with a particular focus on HIV and substance use and related co-morbidities including TB and hepatitis C. Malaysia is the first Asian host of the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.

In the words of Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, PhD, International Chair of IAS 2013 and President, International AIDS Society and Adeeba Kamarulzaman, FRACP Local Co-Chair, and Director, Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS, University of Malaya, “IAS 2013 will be an opportunity to highlight new scientific developments and the need to rapidly implement them in the field. We will also continue to emphasize monitoring the effectiveness of programmes as we scale up treatment and prevention, given that we still have tremendous strides to make before reaching the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”

Citizen News Service - CNS
May 2013