A report from Jacqueline Tulsky, MD, a professor of clinical medicine, UCSF Department of Medicine based at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center:
Twenty-two years ago, the last time the International AIDS Conference (IAC) opening session occurred in the United States, the landscape for HIV prevention and treatment was barren. At the 2012 conference Opening Session, a new era was welcomed in, where it is possible to “Turn the Tide” of the epidemic using a combination of interventions that we currently have in hand.
With the lifting of the ban against travel into the U.S. by persons living with HIV/AIDS, the International AIDS Society (IAS) has brought the International AIDS Conference back to Washington, D.C. The program had representatives of all the key components needed to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. and globally – persons living with HIV, scientists, politicians, health advocates and finance specialists. From the opening remarks by the conference Co-Chairs, Elly Katabira of Uganda and Diane Havlir of the U.S., to the sincere but challenging thanks of an HIV-infected mother and her HIV uninfected daughter from Nigeria, the world was put on notice that the HIV/AIDS epidemic can be controlled.
One of the most powerful moments was the opening presentation of inaugural AMFAR/IAS Elizabeth Taylor Award by Sharon Stone to the first award to two Iraqi physicians who were imprisoned for providing care to HIV-positive persons. Two years ago, their plight was the focus of a campaign by attendees at the Mexico IAS conference. “Treating AIDS is not a crime,” declared the Allayi brothers.
The first president of the World Bank ever to address the IAC, Jim Young Kim pledged to use the power of the World Bank to address the inexorable link between poverty and HIV infection.
The Opening Session closed with announcements by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, about new initiatives in public-private partnerships to address HIV/AIDS in the United States, including programs with retail pharmacies to support adherence to treatment and additional access to HIV clinical education. She also characterized the Affordable Care Act as a cornerstone piece in the overall US AIDS Strategy and reiterated the recent news that new funding will end the ADAP (the program that pays for HIV related drugs) waiting lists that exist in 9 states in the U.S.