Twenty-five thousand people are expected to participate in the 17th
International AIDS Conference
3-8] in Mexico City. The conference theme, "Universal Action Now," is
a renewed call to combat the viral pandemic that has gripped the world
for nearly 30 years.
The AIDS 2008 summit brings leading HIV
and AIDS researchers, community leaders, policy experts, activists and
delegations of young people from around the world to the first
International AIDS Conference ever held in Latin America. The region
is known for its human rights response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, says
Craig McClure, executive director of the International AIDS Society,
the group that's been planning the
biennial event in concert with the United Nations and other global
"All of us working in HIV now are realizing that
although we talked about human rights for 25 years, very little has
really been done to insure that the communities that are most
vulnerable to HIV are really able to access the prevention and
treatment services that they deserve." He says hosting the conference
in Latin America, which has been an exception, is exciting because "it
really puts those human rights issues at the foreground."
2008 co-chair Pedro Cahn says the conference is taking place at a time
of growing support for efforts to ensure universal access to HIV
prevention, treatment and care, an initiative advanced by the United
Nations in 2006. "We need to debate a little bit more how we can
strengthen health systems through the AIDS response. So instead of
competing priorities we are looking for interconnected solutions." Focus on AIDS Vaccine
2008 will feature 5,000 sessions, workshops and poster exhibits on the
state of the epidemic and strategies for scaling up treatment, care and
support networks. Cahn says the development of an AIDS vaccine is
critical, given the 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS and the
6,500 new HIV infections every day.
There is no cure for AIDS and 25 million people have died from the disease since it was identified in the 1980s.
the recent failure of a promising human vaccine trial, Cahn says
researchers must redirect their efforts. "While recent setbacks in
clinical trails regarding microbicides and vaccines have been extremely
disappointing, this crisis should be seen as an opportunity to learn
from the results of research in order to help advance the field in the
Three sessions at the conference will focus on the
quest for an AIDS vaccine, including a panel discussion with National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
director Anthony Fauci, who stopped
testing on an experimental vaccine in mid-July.
look for new approaches to prevent and treat this disease,
International AIDS Society director Craig McClure says their work not
only benefits HIV/AIDS, but also addresses a larger global health
agenda. "We are working to expand or evolve or strengthen our coalition
beyond HIV and AIDS towards a world that truly recognizes that health
and health for all is a fundamental building block of development."
co-chair Pedro Cahn says major achievements - such as greater access to
anti-retroviral therapy - come about because of this biennial AIDS
meeting. He says three million people in lower and middle income countries where the problem is most acute, now have access to these drugs. Cahn notes,
however, that that is only about one third of those who need them. He
says AIDS 2008 is an opportunity to address these persistent inequities.
Daily online coverage of AIDS 2008 is available at the conference website, at www.AIDS2008.org