IAS 2011 Kicks Off in Rome

Starting this evening, more than 5,000 delegates will gather in Rome for the 6th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011). Although prevention comes last in the title, it is the topic that will garner the greatest attention at this year's meeting.


Just last week, promising results were reported from two trials of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). These studies, the Partners PrEP study conducted in Kenya and Uganda and a trial in Botswana conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show PrEP is a highly effective strategy for preventing HIV infection among serodiscordant couples and heterosexual men and women. Detailed results from these studies will be presented tomorrow afternoon, along with the full data from the HPTN052 trial that showed that earlier initiation of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy among HIV-infected partners in serodiscordant couples is also an incredibly effective strategy for blocking HIV transmission.

These results, along with results from previous studies of both oral and topical PrEP, have inspired many researchers in Rome to liken the latest developments in the HIV prevention field to the introduction of combination ARV therapy for HIV treatment in 1996. 

"This is a very pivotal moment," said Cate Hankins of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. "We are at a tipping point."

Will this meeting mark the beginning of a real prevention revolution? Perhaps. But remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Or for that matter in a week.