co-chairman David Cooper said the research ranged from studies showing a
simple measure such as male circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV
infection by up to 60 percent to details of the latest hi-tech
pharmaceuticals. Cooper said some of the most exciting research
developments came from a new generation of drugs called integrase
inhibitors, which help block the HI-virus infecting new cells.
Fewer side effects
Cooper said while cocktails of powerful anti-retroviral drugs had been
used to help contain the virus and prolong life for more than a decade,
the new drugs were more potent than their predecessors and had fewer side
effects. Cooper, the director of Australia's National Centre for HIV
Epidemiology and Clinical Research, said integrase inhibitors and other
promising research avenues such as gene therapy meant eradicating HIV was
a realistic possibility.
"The integrase inhibitors are particularly potent drugs and I
think you will start to see that eradication will return to the agenda
with these new agents and new ways of using them," Cooper told
reporters. "Eradication was talked about when anti-retroviral
therapies became available in the mid-1990s but went off the agenda
because of the toxicity of the drugs - people thought it was going to take
Back on the agenda
"Now with some of the newer drugs and newer strategies it's back on
the agenda again." Cooper said up to 30 drugs were now available to
HIV patients in the developed world, meaning they live longer but present
a challenge to the health systems which treat them because they are more
prone to conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
He said a major topic for discussion at the conference was making the
latest drugs available in impoverished developing countries. "In the
developing world, we've only got the standard older drugs, which are more
toxic," he said. "One of the tensions is how we get these really
new medications into the developing world." Anthony Fauci, the
director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
said about two million people were being treated with anti-retroviral
drugs in developing nations but the aim was quadruple that number.
Fauci said US President George W. Bush committed 30 billion dollars to
HIV/Aids treatment in the developing world last May, in what amounted to
the largest public health campaign ever undertaken.
Still much to do
"The achievements in treatment have been breathtaking, there has been
so much accomplished in the years up to 2007, but there is still much to
do - that will be the key message I'll be taking to the conference,"
he told AFP. To help ensure that anti-retroviral medicines are properly
rolled out in countries which often lack basic infrastructure, Cooper has
proposed delegates at the conference sign an initiative called the
"Sydney Declaration." The declaration will earmark 10 percent of
HIV/Aids funding in the developing world for research, to ensure
programmes are working efficiently. "If donors can't see that there's
good outcomes, that it's effective, then unfortunately they're going to
pull the plug," Cooper said. "The only way to keep it on track
is with research."