About 20,000 HIV/AIDS researchers, advocates and policymakers are convening this week in Washington, D.C., for the 19th International AIDS Conference, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Neergaard, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23).
Prominent public health officials -- including HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Jonathan Mermin, director of HIV and AIDS prevention at CDC -- will address the conference, and researchers will offer findings from recent studies on treatment and prevention, and how to best use resources (Norman, Politico, 7/22).
Conference Marks End of Boycott Over 'Helms Rule'
The conference marks the first time an international AIDS conference has been held in the U.S. in 22 years, marking the end of a boycott over a controversial policy that banned individuals with HIV from entering the U.S. (Brown, Washington Post, 7/21).
The rule -- known as the Helms Rule, after former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who sponsored the legislation that created the ban -- was lifted in 2009 as a result of a bipartisan effort between Congress and presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush (Politico, 7/22).
Sebelius Announces New HIV Initiatives
In a speech at the opening ceremony on Sunday, Sebelius announced that the U.S. has more than 150 antiretroviral drugs available through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Sebelius also announced new U.S. initiatives for HIV/AIDS care, including collaborations with Walgreen, Medscape and the MAC AIDS Fund.
Further, Sebelius announced that HHS has partnered with the eight largest HIV/AIDS drugmakers to create a common application form to make it easier for individuals with HIV to access the drugs (Mohamed, Sacramento Bee, 7/22).
Fauci Pushes for 'AIDS-Free Generation'
On Sunday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said that although there is a "long way to go" to achieve "an AIDS-free generation," there is "no excuse, scientifically, to say we cannot do it" (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 7/22).
Fauci noted that several areas -- including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and parts of South Africa -- that are pushing to get more people tested and into treatment are seeing infection rates drop (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23).
Nearly 'Everything' Has Changed Since Last U.S.-Based AIDS Conference
"Just about everything" has changed in the 22 years since the last international AIDS conference was held in the U.S., the Post reports.
According to the Post, in 1990, AIDS was nearly always fatal. Only one HIV/AIDS medication was available, and it was largely ineffective. Further, the public and many medical professionals feared the disease and individuals who had it.
Since then, about two dozen HIV/AIDS treatments have become available, and many individuals live with HIV for decades (Washington Post, 7/21).