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International AIDS Conference Kicks Off In Washington, D.C.

The XIX International AIDS Conference opened in Washington, D.C., on Sunday and “is expected to draw 25,000 people, including politicians, scientists and activists, as well as some of the estimated 34 million people living with HIV who will tell their stories,” Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 7/22). “Researchers, doctors and patients attending the world’s largest AIDS conference are urging the world’s governments not to cut back on the fight against the epidemic when it is at a turning point,” the Associated Press writes, adding, “There is no cure or vaccine yet, but scientists say they have the tools to finally stem the spread of this intractable virus — largely by using treatment not just to save patients but to make them less infectious, too” (Neergaard, 7/22). “New breakthroughs in research will be announced, as will new efforts by governments and organizations to reduce the spread of HIV, to treat those who have it, and to work, eventually, toward a vaccine and a cure,” the Seattle Times writes (Tate, 7/22). According to the Washington Post’s “Blog Post,” three remaining challenges to be addressed at the conference include: “More research into treatment and prevention, and more ways to deliver treatments”; reaching marginalized populations, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers; and “[i]ncreasing funding for PEPFAR and other anti-AIDS programs” (Khazan, 7/20).

“Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said in his opening address that for the first time, more people are on treatment than need it — eight million of 15 million — and the trajectory of infections had been broken with a worldwide decline of 20 percent since 2001,” but he added “that poverty, gender inequality, homophobia and prejudice, and funding shortages still put millions more at risk,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 7/22). U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in her opening remarks that “[t]he world needs to be more focused and efficient in getting therapies and preventatives to those in need,” Bloomberg writes (Pettypiece/Wayne, 7/23). According to the Washington Blade, “Sebelius announced four new public-private initiatives on Sunday night aimed at removing barriers that cause some living with HIV/AIDS within the United States to fall out of care.” The news service notes that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to attendees by video remarks (Johnson, 7/23). “Other opening-day speakers at the AIDS conference included World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe,” Bloomberg writes, noting, “Kim warned that the AIDS epidemic is an economic crisis as well as a human one” (7/23). “President Barack Obama has faced some criticism for his decision not to attend in person,” AFP writes in a separate article, noting, “He is sending a video message and will invite some attendees to the White House for talks on Thursday, a top health official said” (Sheridan, 7/22).

A webcast of the Opening Ceremony is available online.