The 19th International AIDS Conference came to a close in Washington DC on Friday, July 27, with repeated calls for sustained financial commitment and increased scientific and social efforts to stop the onslaught of the epidemic and reverse its devastation on humanity.
The outgoing chair of the International AIDS society, Dr Elly Katabira, thanked participants during the closing ceremony of the conference for their dedication and commitment to making AIDS 2012 a success and urged them to maintain the momentum. His co-chair, Dr Diane Havlir, observed that “AIDS 2012 represented many milestones in the history of the International AIDS Conference, but most importantly, it is the first time we have been united around the goal to end AIDS”.
This was the first time since 1990 that the International AIDS Conference was being held in the United States, after President Barrack Obama lifted a 22-year-old travel ban preventing HIV-positive people from entering the country. Over 24,000 delegates from 183 countries converged on the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre for the conference, including HIV and AIDS researchers, policymakers, medical professionals, advocates and media.
Delivering a keynote address at the closing ceremony, former US President Bill Clinton called for more effective use of resources in the fight against HIV and AIDS. “We need a new level of openness about how every last dollar is spent by countries, by governments, and by NGOs,” he said.
While acknowledging that the international financial crisis has adversely affected contributions by donor countries, Clinton lauded countries like the UK and Ireland, and some private donors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that have increased their support to global HIV and AIDS work in recent years.
Regarding the goal of universal access to treatment by 2015, Clinton pointed out according to World Health Organisation estimates, only 5.2 million of the 15 million people with HIV globally received treatment at the end of 2009. “There is no excuse for failing to provide treatment for the remaining 10 million people in need,” he said.
Earlier in the week, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had announced that the US government would give US$157 million towards efforts to achieve “an AIDS-free generation”, including US$80 million for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The mayor of Washington DC, Vincent Gray, had demonstrated that this goal is possible during his welcome address when he told participants that no baby had been born with HIV in the city since 2009 as a result of concerted efforts to fight HIV.
Each day of the six-day meeting began with a daily plenary session featuring some of the world’s most distinguished HIV scientists, policy specialists and community leaders. The morning sessions brought together all conference delegates and set the tone for discussions during the day. The final daily plenary session of the conference on ‘HIV in the Larger Global Health Context’ was chaired by AMREF Director General Dr Teguest Guerma. Speakers in the session were Prof Anthony Harries, Senior Advisor at the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in France, whose presentation was titled ‘TB and HIV: Science and Implementation to Turn the Tide on TB. Prof Judith Currier, Chief, of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Co Director of the Centre for AIDS Research and Education Centre at the University of California, Los Angeles, spoke on the ‘Intersection of Non-Communicable Diseases and Ageing in HIV’ . The third speaker in the session was Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy Director-General for Health in South Africa, who discussed Integration of HIV and Health Services for Optimisation, Effectiveness and Efficiency of Service Delivery.
AMREF’s participation at the conference included an oral presentation by Research Lead Josephat Nyagero, on ‘Behaviour Change and Associated Factors among Female Sex Workers in Kenya’, and several poster presentations made by Nyagero and AMREF HIV/AIDS and TB Lead Dr Abebe Aberra. AMREF Kenya Country Director Dr Lenny Bazira Kyomuhangi, AMREF USA CEO Lisa Meadowcroft and US Board Chair Carol Jenkins also attended the conference.
Hundreds of delegates visited AMREF’s booth at the conference, where they received information on AMREF’s work and the Stand Up for African Mothers campaign. Dignitaries who visited the stand included members of Kenya’s Parliamentary Health Committee, Cote d’Ivoire’s Minister of Health and the Vice President of the Gabon Senate Milébou Aubusson.