The 2010 International AIDS Conference is taking place in Vienna this week, bringing together 25,000 people to discuss and debate a myriad of issues — science, policy, health, human rights — swirling around the pandemic.
But the main issue is pretty simple: Will the international community fund this global health fight at a level that will make it winnable?
Due to the economic slowdown, many governments and donor organizations plan to reduce — or renege on promised increases in — funding for international anti-AIDS efforts.
This is being done despite the fact that most people who need AIDS drugs still aren’t getting them, and mounting evidence that people on drug treatment don’t spread HIV to others.
On the opening day, activists disrupted a forum focused on international collaboration called “Is This the End of AIDS Diplomacy?” The protesters held up signs denouncing “broken promises” and called for governments to remain true to earlier pledges to fund “universal access” to AIDS treatment.
It won’t be the last such spectacle. Protests are de rigueur for the world’s biggest AIDS conference, which may explain why so many scientists stay away from this high-profile confab and present their results elsewhere.
Beyond the sound and fury, there will be a few staid scientists reporting progress on the research front at the meeting. There is renewed hope for finding an AIDS vaccine based on a clinical trial completed last year in Thailand and some interesting laboratory findings on antibodies. On Tuesday, the results of a large anti-HIV microbicide gel study are eagerly anticipated.