Highlights of 2016 International AIDS Conference in South Africa

South Africa has the highest infection rate in the world with about seven million affected

By DTE Staff
Published: Saturday 23 July 2016
Experts called for addressing the epidemic among youth and “swiftly moving science into practice” Credit: hdptcar/Flicker __

The 2016 International AIDS Conference, which was organised in Durban from July 18-22, saw a gathering of more than 18,000 global leaders, scientists, health workers and advocates in Durban with an objective of strengthening global response to the endemic. The theme for this year was ‘Access Equity Rights Now’.

Here are the highlights of what transpired at the five-day event.

  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during his opening remarks, called for closing “the gaps that keep people from accessing services” and focussing on expanding “resources, science and services” so that the world can see the beginning of an “era of a fast-track response”. He also called for ending stigma and discrimination associated with HIV so that lives of the affected people can be saved.
  • One of the senior AIDS research specialists in South Africa, Jerry Coovadia, presented a paper on the state of the disease in that country. He said that South Africa still has the worst epidemic rate, in excess of six million, despite making enormous progress in curbing the spread of AIDS. While nearly 20 million people in Africa are afflicted with the AIDS virus. South Africa has the highest infection rate in the world with about seven million affected.
  • It was announced at the conference that 5,400 volunteers will take part in trials for an experimental vaccine—HVTN 702. The trials will begin in November as the early safety trial has shown “promising results”.
  • On the sidelines of the conference, Treatment for All: Our Lives, Our Stories, a documentary film that chronicles the HIV epidemic through three African protagonists, was premiered. This film, which was produced to support the #TreatmentforAll campaign, featured engaging dialogues between the protagonists as they explore the impact of HIV on their lives.
  • Referring to the fact that 2,000 young women are being infected with HIV in South Africa every week, Fareed Abdullah, CEO of the South African National Aids Council, called for preventing young women from becoming infected.
  • Britain’s Prince Harry called on the youth to lead the fight against HIV and AIDS, observing that the fight starts with overcoming the fear of getting tested. He urged young people to stop feeling ashamed to get tested.
  • Civil society groups and the delegates at the AIDS Conference marched to the Indian Consulate on July 21 to hand over a memorandum. They voiced a major concern over Indian government implementing laws that will enable multinational pharmaceutical companies to take over generic companies, thus making it harder for people to have access to antiretroviral drugs.
  • Amy Lansky, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), highlighted the commonality of issues confronting the US and many other countries. He also spoke about the importance of focusing on key populations, addressing the epidemic among youth and “swiftly moving science into practice”.

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