HIV leaders unveil Declaration to End HIV/AIDS in America; Dr. Evan Wood named Canadian Research Chair in Inner City Medicine at UBC; Dr. Julio Montaner awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; Michael Smith Foundation receives $48 million for health research
Dr. Julio Montaner chaired a blue ribbon panel of more than 80 HIV/AIDS activists and advocates from across the United States who, in conjunction with the National Minority AIDS Council, developed the Declaration.
Las Vegas, Nevada, is renowned for being the entertainment capital of the world – a mecca for gambling, shopping, and fine dining. At the centre of it all stands the iconic Caesar’s Palace, a hotel and casino that has played host to the top entertainers in the world and has been the setting for countless Hollywood movies.
At first glance, it’s an unlikely setting for a gathering of public health officials. But amidst the glitter and glamour that is often associated with the city, more than 2,000 clinicians, care providers, activists, and advocates gathered to discuss the latest trends, groundbreaking interventions, and cutting-edge strategies at the 16th United States Conference on AIDS (USCA). The conference was preceded by the unveiling of the Declaration to End HIV/AIDS in America in a signing ceremony at the first ever Summit to End HIV/AIDS in America.
The Declaration represents a written oath to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic that will require a commitment of money, in-kind donations and human resources. The document focuses on four main points: the promotion of leadership by People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in efforts to increase health care engagement and treatment; the elimination of new HIV infections; reducing the stigma, discrimination, and social injustices which increase HIV vulnerability and health disparities; and the maintenance of a strong commitment to finding a vaccine and a cure.
“It is possible to realistically envision an end to HIV/AIDS. We’ve seen the evidence in British Columbia, where the implementation of Treatment as Prevention has dramatically decreased AIDS-related morbidity and mortality and new HIV infections,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “But we won’t achieve it overnight. It will take ongoing commitment, courage and vision. The signing of the Declaration from leaders across North America represents a compelling first step in making this dream a reality.”
The Treatment as Prevention strategy advocates for increased testing and immediate treatment of those who are found to be HIV-positive and medically eligible. Pioneered by Dr. Montaner, it has been heralded internationally by organizations such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as the way forward in the fight against the epidemic. Implementation of this strategy in B.C. has made the province the only one in Canada to show a consistent decline in new HIV infections.
Kali Lindsey, director of Legislative & Public Affairs at the National Minority AIDS Council, underscored critical scientific developments such as Treatment as Prevention that will greatly impact the fight against the disease. He echoed Dr. Montaner’s comments that for the first time in 30 years, we have the tools to end HIV/AIDS, however a steadfast commitment will be needed to reach the goal of an AIDS-free generation.
The Declaration was opened for public signatures following the conference and had added more than 400 signatures in less than 24 hours, including those of basketball star and HIV activist Magic Johnson and television personality Wendy Williams.