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Key Takeaways from IAS 2023: Part 1

Key Takeaways from IAS 2023: Part 1

The 12th IAS Conference on HIV Science, IAS 2023, brought together delegates from The Aurum Institute and around the world to share research and remarkable achievements in the battle against HIV. This article is Part 1 of the key takeaways from the conference, promising a hopeful future in the fight against HIV. 

A significant highlight of IAS 2023 was the "Geneva Patient," the sixth individual considered "cured" of HIV. This achievement followed chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor. Unlike previous cases with HIV-resistant donors, the Geneva Patient received stem cells from a donor susceptible to HIV, offering new insights into potential HIV cures. 

Prof. Salome Charalambous, Aurum's Group Chief Scientific Officer, presented findings on TB and HIV work. She stressed the need for better TB case identification, advocating improved testing methods and the use of digital CXR for case finding, which could advance TB and HIV management strategies. 

AS 2023 affirmed the undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) messaging, emphasising that people living with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load through WHO-approved tests and adhere to prescribed medication have "zero risk" of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners. This revelation provides a tremendous boost to the confidence in HIV prevention strategies and fosters hope in reducing new infections worldwide. 

At a YRGCARE Satellite Session at IAS, Heeran Makkan, Aurum’s Clinical Research Division Programme Manager, presented innovative strategies from India and Africa to enhance HIV service uptake and research participation. He emphasised the crucial role of Youth Friendly Health Services in increasing participation in clinical research and improving service uptake at Aurum’s Rustenburg Clinical Research Site.  

Another significant takeaway from IAS 2023 was the widespread acceptance of Long-Acting Injectable PrEP among women. A study involving 2,500 cisgender women from seven African countries revealed that almost 80% preferred long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) over daily oral TDF/FTC as PrEP when given the choice. This highlights the need to expand access to long-acting injectable PrEP, potentially transforming HIV prevention strategies for women. 

Despite these strides, Prof. Geoffrey Setswe, Aurum’s Managing Director - Implementation Research Division, expressed concerns about the lack of attention to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at IAS and other AIDS conferences. Drawing from a study by Wand et al (2020), Prof. Setswe revealed that South Africa, the epicentre of the HIV epidemic, faces the highest burden of STIs worldwide. This urgent issue requires simultaneous efforts to address the growing STI crisis alongside combating HIV. 

IAS 2023 highlighted remarkable progress and groundbreaking research in the fight against HIV. The conference reinforced the vital importance of sustained collaboration among researchers, policymakers, and implementers to translate these findings into effective strategies for eliminating HIV as a menacing public health threat. As we move forward, these invaluable takeaways will shape the global response to HIV, guiding us closer to a world where HIV is no longer a barrier to well-being and health for all. 

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