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Scientists meet to discuss ending the world's AIDS pandemic

The symposium next month will look at what can be done to achieve an AIDS-free world.

Image: HIV via Shutterstock

WHAT WILL IT take to achieve an AIDS-free world?

That is the question being put to scientists, researchers, public health officials and clinical investigators in San Francisco next month.

The group of world-renowned experts will convene for a symposium, organised by medicine journals Cell and The Lancet, between the 3rd and 5th November with an aim to “bridge the gap between clinicians and researchers focused on understanding, managing, preventing, and curing HIV and AIDS”.

Recent findings from UNAIDS – the UN agency responsible for coordinating the global response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic - showed dramatic reductions in new HIV infections between 2001 and 2012.

Those reports have encouraged optimism that it might be possible to end the pandemic.

However, according to the Lancet, falling rates of new infections and increasing access to antiretroviral drugs in low- and middle-income countries are not the full story. Still, 1.6 million people worldwide died from HIV in 2012, and 35.3 million others continue to live with the disease.

“This Cell-Lancet symposium comes at a unique point in the 30-plus years of the AIDS epidemic,” says says Kenneth Mayer of the Fenway Institute Recent in Boston.

“Recent research has demonstrated that antiretrovirals can decrease HIV transmission, but many implementation science questions remain. Other recent efforts have provided glimmers of hope for the development of safe and effective preventive vaccines and/or cures for HIV.”

Other speakers at the event include the so-called Berlin Patient, Timothy Brown, who was the first person to be cured of HIV.

The conference was purposefully located in San Francisco as it was one of the first places where the condition we now call AIDS was diagnosed in the early 1980s. It continues to be a leading centre of research.

California is among the US states with the highest rate of adults and adolescents living with HIV (363 per 100,000 population) and newly diagnosed with HIV (19.2 per 100,000 population), according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read: Peter Higgs and Francois Enlgert awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

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