The 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) is currently underway in Amsterdam, Netherlands where global leaders are discussing and sharing information on new investments, science-based policies and the political will needed to put the HIV response back on track.

Taking place from 23 to 27 July 2018 with the theme ‘Breaking Barriers Building Bridges’, the conference is showcasing the latest science on innovations in treatment, cure and prevention and the new on-the-ground strategies to address inequities in HIV policies and programmes. Nearly 3,000 abstracts will also be presented from more than 100 countries.

At the opening ceremony, conference organisers announced that young people would take centre stage at AIDS 2018 – and that youth and junior investigators made up more than one third of the studies that will be presented at the conference.

“AIDS 2018 will provide a powerful platform for those most affected by HIV and feature breaking science that will address the most pressing challenges,” said the President of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and International Scientific Chair of AIDS 2018, Linda-Gail Bekker.

“The biggest barriers now to ending the epidemic are ideologically and politically driven. Together, we will hold policy makers and donors accountable to the evidence – the end of AIDS will only come from prioritising science-based policies, ensuring adequate funding and working hard together to be certain that no one is left behind,” continued Bekker.

Globally, more people than ever before – 21.7 million – are on treatment. However, the newly released IAS-Lancet Commission report stated that the HIV epidemic is not on track to end by 2030. For example, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new infections are up 30% since 2010.

Young women in particular remain at risk of HIV. Four in 10 adolescent girls in Africa have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner, which increases the likelihood of acquiring HIV.

The IAS-Lancet Commission report also showed that integration in diverse epidemic settings is highly cost effective and offers “win-win” results, improving both HIV-related and non-HIV-related health outcomes.

“No one should go without treatment or die from HIV because of lack of access to basic healthcare,” said Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“HIV prevention and care must be part of the fight for universal health coverage (UHC). That means recognising UHC as a right for all people, no matter how marginalised,” continued Ghebreyesus.

Only a few days into the conference, results of several important HIV prevention studies have already been announced. One such study confirmed that “treatment as prevention” and “on-demand PrEP” are highly effective prevention strategies for men who have sex with men (MSM).

“This is a new era in HIV prevention, and these studies help point the way forward. If we deliver prevention advances where they’re needed most and at scale, we can greatly reduce the number of new infections worldwide,” said Bekker.

“The studies presented at AIDS 2018 further advance our understanding of how best to treat HIV and move us closer to remission or cure,” concluded Bekker.

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