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IAS 2015: From Science to Progress

More than 6,000 participants from about 125 countries are expected to convene in Vancouver, Canada, from July 19-22 for the 8th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2015). ThiIAS2015 web banner 2s bi-annual meeting comes at a critical moment in the fight against AIDS, according to Chris Beyrer, current president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Studies of the optimal timing for the administration of antiretroviral treatment (ART) as well as recent discoveries related to virus-fighting proteins known as antibodies are ushering in a new chapter of HIV prevention and treatment.

 “You put all these advances together and what you get is a scientific conversation,” Beyrer says. “How do we realize the benefits that such research can provide?”

The upcoming IAS meeting will serve as a forum for discussing how to put this new knowledge into action, says Mark Harrington, executive director of the New York-based Treatment Action Group. The meeting’s location is also significant, he said. Vancouver was where the bellwether 1996 IAS meeting occurred. That meeting ushered in the idea of using triple combination antiretroviral therapy, forever changing the way HIV treatment is administered.

But there is still much work to be done. “We need to not lose our commitment to research for a cure and a vaccine to finally wipe HIV off the planet,” says Harrington.

Vaccine and cure research will be the focus of several pre-conference symposia and conference sessions. Prior to the start of the conference, IAS is hosting the fourth annual Towards an HIV Cure Symposium. A satellite session titled, “What’s Next for HIV Vaccines: From design to efficacy testing,” will also take place on the opening day of IAS 2015. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will also speak about vaccine research at a session titled, “Progress and challenges in HIV prevention: Vaccine and non-vaccine approaches.”

Attendees at IAS 2015 can also expect to hear the full results of the START (Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment) trial, Beyrer says. Early reports are that the study conclusively showed that HIV-infected volunteers receiving ART immediately were at a considerably lower risk of developing AIDS or of suffering from other serious illnesses or death. Together with data from previous studies showing that ART reduces the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners, these findings point to the need to revisit treatment guidelines, Beyrer says. — Kitta MacPherson