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AIDS 2014: International AIDS Conference Starts Sunday in Melbourne

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The 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) gets underway this Sunday, July 20, in Melbourne, Australia. More than 2500 abstracts were selected for presentation, with key themes including global access to HIV treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and other biomedical prevention strategies, HIV cure research, and new therapies for hepatitis C.

HIVandHepatitis.com and content partners Aidsmap.com will be providing comprehensive on-site coverage starting Sunday. Find the latest news on our AIDS 2014 conference page (coming soon), our Facebook page, or on Twitter @HIVandHepatitis.

In the cure realm, researchers have eagerly awaited an update on a Mississippi child who started very early antiretroviral therapy and appeared to be free of HIV -- some even dared to say "cured" -- after more than 2 years off treatment.

Last week, however, the girl's doctors reported that the child now has detectable viral load. While this outcome is disappointing, researchers hope the case can provide further clues about where HIV hides in the body and how it can be controlled to allow for at least a "functional cure," or prolonged time off treatment.

PrEP, especially for gay men, has been a major headline-grabber in recent months. Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new recommendationthat gay and bisexual men who are at risk for HIV infection should consider using antiretroviral drugs for PrEP. The recommendation is part of a new set of guidelines for HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care for key populations, which also includes people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and transgender people.

In advance of the conference, several organizations have issued progress reports and updates on national and global HIV/AIDS epidemics. The White House this week issued a 4-year progress report on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. UNAIDS released a new Gap Report, describing progress towards ending AIDS worldwide -- and areas that still need work.

As the advent of effective new direct-acting antiviral drugs for hepatitis C virus (HCV) has ushered in a revolution in treatment, hepatitis C has become a prominent topic at HIV meetings. At AIDS 2014 researchers will present late-breaking results from the TOURQUOISE-I trial, testing AbbVie's "3D" interferon-free regimen, and PHOTON-2, looking at Gilead Science's sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) plus ribavirin for HIV/HCV coinfected people.

In the policy arena, major themes will included global access to HIV and hepatitis C treatment -- with a focus on making drugs more affordable -- and stigma and criminalization of people with HIV.

Numerous celebrities, political leaders, and dignitaries will take part in the meeting, including former President Bill Clinton, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, renowned jurist Michael Kirby, and musician Bob Geldof,

Several associated events get underway this weekend, including the International AIDS Society's "Towards an HIV Cure" symposiumand the Global Forum on MSM & HIV's "Gay Men, MSM and Transgender People in the Global AIDS Response" pre-conference.

"AIDS 2014 gathers representatives of science, civil society, politics, and private sector to discuss together at an international level the most pressing issues linked to HIV/AIDS," said conference co-chair and IAS President Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. "It is only with an open and collaborative dialogue that we can advance in the response to HIV and to other health threats."

The full AIDS 2014 conference program is available online. Abstracts will be posted on line and selected sessions will be webcast. Follow conference news on Twitter using hashtag #AIDS2014.

7/16/14