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What to Expect at the 11th IAS Conference on HIV Science, July 18-21, 2021: A Look at Key Studies

Adeeba Kamarulzaman, MBBS, FRACP, FASc

President, International AIDS Society
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases
University of Malaya
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Adeeba Kamarulzaman, MBBS, FRACP, FASc, has no disclosures to report within the past 24 months. She discloses that she has previously received financial or material support from Sanofi and consulting fees from Zuellig-Pharma.

View ClinicalThoughts from this Author

Released: July 19, 2021

In the 40 years since the first reported cases of AIDS, nearly 35 million people have died from AIDS-related causes.

Today, thanks to scientific inquiry, a positive HIV test no longer means fear and despair. A mother with HIV can give birth without passing it on to her child, and an undetectable viral load is untransmittable between partners. Each year, our treatment and prevention efforts improve. And each year, we continue to unlock the mysteries of how HIV interacts with the human body.

Beginning July 18, the International AIDS Society (IAS) will host the first virtual convening of the IAS Conference on HIV Science, as another pandemic prevents many of us from meeting in-person to share the latest breakthroughs in science, medicine, health policy, and program implementation.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 lockdowns, curfews, and supply disruptions, we have planned a robust scientific program. Highlights include advancements in the search for an HIV cure, analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the global HIV response, and the specific obstacles faced by women and girls.

Key highlights to expect at the 11th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2021) include the following:

  • A step closer to an HIV cure: findings from a study seeking to induce posttreatment controls
  • New evidence of the impact of drug resistance, including results from a phase III trial seeking to improve a key treatment strategy for highly drug–resistant tuberculosis, and an update from the GEMS project’s monitoring of HIV drug resistance in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) rollout programs
  • Investigating whether HIV is a risk factor for people with COVID-19: key new data on the demographics and risk factors among people with HIV who have been hospitalized for COVID-19
  • A look into what UN Women has dubbed the “shadow pandemic” of increased risk of sexual violence, unintended pregnancy, and HIV among women: an important study about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on girls and women in Uganda

Another theme emerging from the science is innovative new tools. Studies examining the safety and effectiveness of new technology include the following:

  • Findings from the REACH HIV prevention study, which is looking at adherence to the dapivirine vaginal ring and oral PrEP among adolescent girls and young women in Africa
  • The first report on a multidrug biodegradable PrEP implant and new analysis of the effectiveness of long-acting injectable PrEP
  • An assessment of once every-6-month subcutaneous injections for HIV treatment
  • 3D-printed vaginal rings to provide precise dosing for women to prevent HIV and pregnancy

We are thrilled to see that HIV research has not been completely brushed aside during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as 40 years of HIV experience informed the COVID-19 response, the scientific breakthroughs and political will achieved in that response must now propel our efforts to end HIV.

Our focus as we head into IAS 2021 is to keep this momentum going. We now have new opportunities to adapt and enhance COVID-19 approaches and sustain global attention and commitment to prioritizing public health. We hope you will attend the conference and put important new data in HIV science to work in your practice.

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