International AIDS Conference Begins in Brazil; More Than 5,000 Researchers To Discuss HIV/AIDS Treatment and Prevention Advances
The four-day 3rd IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment, where more than 5,000 doctors and researchers are expected to discuss advances in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday, BBC News reports. A record number of scientific studies will be presented at the conference -- organized by the International AIDS Society, in partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil's Institute of Contagious Diseases -- including research focusing on vaccine and treatment developments (Lichtarowicz, BBC News, 7/25). "As the largest scientific AIDS conference of this year, the pathogenesis and treatment conference is an opportunity to explore state-of-the-art scientific developments," Helene Gayle, IAS president and director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's HIV, TB and reproductive health programs, said, adding, "But scientific knowledge alone will not end the pandemic. [W]e need bold political leadership to translate science into policy and practice" (IAS release, 7/24).
Brazil's Prevention, Treatment Efforts
Organizers also discussed Brazil's role in the fight against the pandemic during the opening of the conference. "Brazil, by maintaining an aggressive and comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, treatment and support is really a leader for our global effort," Gayle said (Astor, Associated Press, 7/24). Brazil's National STD/AIDS Programme, which is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world, manufactures and distributes generic versions of antiretroviral drugs, providing them at no cost to all HIV-positive people in the country. The program ignores all patents issued before 1997, when Brazil signed an intellectual property law in order to join the World Trade Organization (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/3). "Even before antiretroviral therapy was available, (Brazil) had a very lively discourse on HIV and its prevention and its spread, also, a very strong commitment to not stigmatizing people with HIV/AIDS," Jim Yong Kim, director of the World Health Organization's HIV/AIDS Programme, said (BBC News, 7/25). However, approximately 50 people from the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Pela Vidda held a demonstration to protest reports of a recent deal between Brazil's Ministry of Health and pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories (Associated Press, 7/24). Earlier this month, Brazil's Ministry of Health and Abbott said they had reached an agreement for Abbott to keep the government's annual expenses on Kaletra at current levels for the next six years and that Brazil would not break Abbott's patent to produce a generic equivalent of the drug. The Brazilian government had said it would break Abbott's patent on Kaletra unless the company lowered the drug's price 42% to 68 cents per pill from its current price of $1.17 per pill. However, Brazilian Health Minister Jose Saraiva Felipe, who took office on July 8, later reported that no official agreement had been reached (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/15).
Also at the conference, Japan's Ono Pharmaceutical on Monday announced that drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has begun Phase III trials of its experimental antiretroviral called GSK 873140. The drug, which GSK licensed from Ono, has been in late Phase II trials since last year and aims to prevent HIV from entering human cells (Reuters/Yahoo! Asia News, 7/25). David Reddy, head of Roche's HIV/AIDS division, called for increased collaboration, including joint clinical trials, between pharmaceutical companies to prevent the development of drug resistance. "We've almost got all the low-hanging fruit. There is a real uphill battle now, and the potential for the virus to catch up. We are trying to stay one step ahead," Reddy said (Jack, Financial Times, 7/25).
Kaisernetwork.org Webcasting Key Sessions
In partnership with IAS, kaisernetwork.org will serve as the official webcaster of the 3rd IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment. Kaisernetwork.org will provide daily webcasts of sessions and press conferences, as well as interviews with newsmakers, which are available to download for podcasting. The webcasts and interviews are available at no cost and without registration. Additional information about viewing webcasts and signing up for a daily e-mail update is available online, and organizations are welcome to link to kaisernetwork.org's conference coverage from their Web sites. Webcasts now available include the opening ceremonies of the conference, the official conference press briefing, an eJIAS workshop on how to publish papers in medical journals, and newsmaker interviews with Conference Co-Chair and IAS President Helene Gayle of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IAS Executive Director Craig McClure.