July 14, 2017

The science of Durban, AIDS 2016

Written by Chris Beyrer et al.


The 21st International AIDS Conference (IAC), held 18–22 July 2016, in Durban, South Africa, was just the second IAC to be held in Africa, the world’s most HIV-affected continent. The last, in 2000, also in Durban, was a watershed in the history of the AIDS response. AIDS 2000 is now widely acknowledged to have been the convening where a global consensus emerged that antiretroviral therapy (ART) should be made available to all who need it. AIDS 2016, in the second decade of the treatment access era, was hosted by a changed South Africa. Prior denial of the epidemic was replaced by an intensive evidence-informed approach to the HIV response. South Africa is now the country with the largest treatment programme in the world, with some 3.4 million citizens on ART and vigorous international collaborative research and implementation efforts underway across all sectors of HIV and TB investigation [1]. Yet KwaZulu Natal, the provincial host for both AIDS 2000 and AIDS 2016, remains one of the highest burden regions for HIV worldwide, with high and sustained incidence, particularly among adolescent girls and young women [2] and high morbidity and mortality among African adult men and women [3,4]. The enormous achievements of treatment access and daunting reality of ongoing HIV transmission among adults in many settings and populations gave an urgency and intensity to AIDS 2016, to the work undone in HIV, and to the need for sustained scientific investment to achieve the goal of an end to AIDS as a public health threat.

While the IAC serves multiple roles as a global convening for those engaged in the HIV response in social, political and health systems efforts, AIDS 2016 also provided a venue for presentation of an enormous array of scientific achievements and advances.

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