XVI International AIDS conference characterized by 'guarded optimism'

The XVI International AIDS Conference, which was held Aug. 13 through Aug. 18 in Toronto, was characterized by "guarded optimism," the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to the Times, the "feeling of hope was palpable." Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and former President Clinton, who attended and spoke at the conference, "expressed hope that the tide of the virus could be turned," the Times reports.

Some of the most productive new HIV/AIDS treatment developments were presented and discussed at the conference, according to Charles Farthing, chief of medicine for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles.

Topics highlighted at the conference included HIV/AIDS vaccine research; entry inhibitors, which can prevent the virus from entering cells; integrase inhibitors, which would stop HIV from inserting its genes into normal DNA; pre-exposure prophylaxis, an experimental approach to HIV prevention in which HIV-negative people receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission; and microbicides, a range of products such as gels, films and sponges that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other infections.

According to the Times, "not everyone at the meeting was so upbeat."

Some HIV/AIDS advocates protested the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief's promotion of abstinence as a way to curb the spread of the virus while others protested the South African government's response to the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"I think there actually was a lot of good applied science" at the conference, Michael Gottlieb, a Los Angeles physician who was the first person to report on the disease that became known as AIDS 25 years ago, said, adding, "I know someone said this meeting was long on spectacle but short on science, but I don't agree" (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 8/28).

Kaisernetwork.org served as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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