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National HIV Prevention Conference highlights progress and disparities
Liz Highleyman, 2015-12-09 13:50:00

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), integration of prevention and treatment services, and initiatives to reach heavily affected but underserved groups are among the highlights of the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference taking place this week in Atlanta. While the latest US epidemiological data show that HIV infections are on the decline overall, significant disparities have kept some groups from taking full advantage of recent prevention advances.

The conference, organised by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), brings together more than 3000 public health experts, medical providers, front-line prevention workers and people living with HIV to discuss the latest advances in HIV prevention science and implementation.

In his opening plenary talk on Sunday, Eugene McCray, director of CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, presented new data showing that HIV diagnoses have declined by 19% overall during the past decade, and that even the group with the highest incidence rate – black gay and bisexual men – has seen new diagnoses level off in the past few years.

But substantial disparities continue to hamper response to the HIV epidemic, largely related to socioeconomic status, geographical location, and stigma and discrimination.

"It is the best of times and the worst of times," said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, who opened the conference on Sunday and gave a plenary talk on Monday about the CDC's high-impact HIV prevention initiative.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also spoke at the opening session, offering an overview of the science underlying biomedical HIV prevention. Fauci highlighted the SMART and START trials, which demonstrated that beginning antiretroviral therapy soon after HIV diagnosis protects the health of people living with HIV; HPTN 052, which showed that prompt treatment dramatically lowers the risk of HIV transmission; and the growing body of evidence showing that Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine) PrEP works if taken regularly.

"The science has spoken," Fauci concluded. "There can now be no excuse for inaction."