Recap: AIDS 2020 Virtual Conference

Founded in 1988, the International AIDS Society (IAS) is an association of HIV professionals working on all levels of global HIV response. It remains the world’s largest associations of HIV professionals and has members in over 170 countries, enabling the IAS to advocate and drive action to reduce the impact of HIV globally. The IAS also organizes several HIV-related conferences, most notably the biennial International AIDS Conference. The IAS also hosts the IAS Conference on HIV science and the HIV Research for Prevention Conference.

In 1985, during the peak of the AIDS epidemic, the first International AIDS Conference was held. It is now the world’s largest conference on HIV and AIDS. This conference brings together scientists, policy makers, healthcare professionals, people living with HIV, funders, media, and the global community to strengthen policies and programs, ensuring an evidence-based response to HIV and related epidemics.

This year marked the 23rd International AIDS conference (also known as AIDS 2020). It was originally scheduled to be held in San Francisco, California in July 2020. On March 27, 2020, the IAS announced that AIDS 2020 would be the first ever virtual edition of the International AIDS Conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anton Pozniak, the president of the IAS, noted in the announcement, “Our commitment to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing global health landscape and to persevere in the face of uncertainty is stronger than ever. The theme of this year’s conference is Resilience and there is no better word to describe the HIV community and our ability to come together in a shared commitment to the global HIV response.”[1]

After each conference day, hosted interviews with Carl Dieffenbach, PhD., director of the Division of AIDS in the National Institute of Health, to discuss highlights from that day’s presentations. Some of the biggest news is recapped below:

Imbokodo Vaccine Trial[2] – A key milestone was reached in the ongoing study of Imbokodo, an experimental vaccine: all vaccines have been administered to trial participants. The study was launched in 2017 and is evaluating the efficacy of Imbokodo among over 2,600 HIV-negative women from ages 18 to 35 in five different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia. In these countries, women are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to men in the same age group.

Update on HPTN 083 (injectable cabotegravir PrEP regimen) Clinical Trial[3] – Interim data from the HPTN 083 trail found that the injectable PrEP regimen, cabotegravir, (given once every 8 weeks) is more effective than daily oral Truvada at preventing HIV acquisition among cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with men. The study so far has found both methods to be highly effective for HIV prevention, however cabotegravir had a superior protective effect, with 66% lower HIV incidence. This long-lasting PrEP option may be more desirable to some who have challenges with taking daily pills. Cabotegravir remains an investigational drug and is not yet approved by the FDA.

First possible case of adult with HIV to achieve tong-term remissions without bone marrow transplant[4] – In São Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Ricardo Diaz revealed that a study participant maintained long-term HIV remission for 64 weeks after a structured treatment interruption. The participant was one of five individuals who received an intensified multidrug antiretroviral therapy regimen for 48 weeks before treatment interruption. Dr. Diaz and Dr. Dieffenbach both noted that these findings are preliminary and more time and further analyses are required.

More highlights and information from the AIDS 2020 Virtual Conference can be found here: