The four-day 3rd IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment, where more than 5,000 doctors and researchers are expected to discuss advances in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday.
A record number of scientific studies will be presented at the conference – organized by the International AIDS Society, in partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil’s Institute of Contagious Diseases – including research focusing on vaccine and treatment developments.
“As the largest scientific AIDS conference of this year, the pathogenesis and treatment conference is an opportunity to explore state-of-the-art scientific developments,” Helene Gayle, IAS president and director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s HIV, TB and reproductive health programs, said, adding, “But scientific knowledge alone will not end the pandemic. We need bold political leadership to translate science into policy and practice”
Organizers also discussed Brazil’s role in the fight against the pandemic during the opening of the conference.
“Brazil, by maintaining an aggressive and comprehensive approach to HIV prevention, treatment and support is really a leader for our global effort,” Gayle said.
Brazil’s National STD/AIDS Program, which is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world, manufactures and distributes generic versions of antiretroviral drugs, providing them at no cost to all HIV-positive people in the country.
The program ignores all patents issued before 1997, when Brazil signed an intellectual property law in order to join the World Trade Organization.
“Even before antiretroviral therapy was available, (Brazil) had a very lively discourse on HIV and its prevention and its spread, also, a very strong commitment to not stigmatizing people with HIV/AIDS,” Jim Yong Kim, director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS Program, told BBC News.
However, according to the Associated Press, approximately 50 people from the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Pela Vida (For Life) held a demonstration to protest reports of a recent deal between Brazil’s Ministry of Health and pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories.
Earlier this month, Brazil’s Ministry of Health and Abbott said they had reached an agreement for Abbott to keep the government’s annual expenses on Kaletra at current levels for the next six years and that Brazil would not break Abbott’s patent to produce a generic equivalent of the drug.
The Brazilian government had said it would break Abbott’s patent on Kaletra unless the company lowered the drug’s price 42% to 68 cents per pill from its current price of $1.17 per pill.
However, Brazilian Health Minister José Saraiva Felipe, who took office on July 8, later reported that no official agreement had been reached.
Also at the conference, Japan’s Ono Pharmaceutical on Monday announced that drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has begun Phase III trials of its experimental antiretroviral called GSK 873140.
The drug, which GSK licensed from Ono, has been in late Phase II trials since last year and aims to prevent HIV from entering human cells.
David Reddy, head of Roche’s HIV/AIDS division, called for increased collaboration, including joint clinical trials, between pharmaceutical companies to prevent the development of drug resistance.
“We’ve almost got all the low-hanging fruit. There is a real uphill battle now, and the potential for the virus to catch up. We are trying to stay one step ahead,” Reddy told the Financial Times.