This week, over 20,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries are gathered in Washington D.C for the AIDS 2012 International Conference. Now in its 19th biennial session, this is the first time in 22 years that the event is being held in the US, a possible response to Barack Obama’s 2009 lifting of the 25-year-old travel ban preventing HIV-positive people from entering the country.
The conference is being hosted by the International Aids Society (IAS), the world’s leading independent association of HIV professionals with over 14,000 members in 190 countries. Joining them are doctors, scientists, politicians and drug company representatives from around the world as well as AIDS activists, philanthropists and people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
HIV has claimed approximately 30 million lives worldwide. The conference has been named “Turning the Tide Together” and reflects the broad advances made against AIDS in recent years.
One of the conference’s key themes was ‘Towards an HIV Cure’, a global scheme launched by an international working group of 300 researchers, scientists and HIV specialists which seeks to prioritise finding a cure for this deadly disease.
“We are trying to inspire people about the possibility that this might happen …. But the realistic part is that we have to do some fundamental basic science first.” commented Dr. Steven Deeks of the AIDS Research Institute at the University of California.
Scientists will be looking closely into why the virus lives in certain cells, how to get the immune system to target these infected tissues and what kind of drugs are needed to get rid of it. However, Dr. Steven warns we are a long way off finding a cure for HIV and that years of research and testing are still needed before we start to see the RESULTS of all this hard work.
Tomorrow, a number of key speakers including Anthony Harries from the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, will contribute to the plenary ‘HIV in the Larger Global Health Context’ which targets other life-threatening diseases associated with the HIV epidemic such as TB/HIV co infection. Of particular interest to RESULTS UK is the call for a joint, global effort against tuberculosis, the leading cause of HIV-related deaths worldwide.
Also taking place in DC this week was the annual RESULTS International Conference, which saw activists come together from around the globe to learn about effective poverty solutions and advocacy training and to use these skills during Monday’s lobby meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
RESULTS UK attendees were lucky to have the chance to hear talks from inspirational, high-level speakers like Jeff Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Raj Shah, Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Staff will shortly be returning to the UK with full news updates from Washington and we wait with anticipation to hear their favourite moments from the conference.
Watch this space….