AIDS Vaccine 2012 will highlight scope of promising prevention advances

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With a completed trial in Thailand that offered evidence a vaccine could be developed to protect people from HIV, emerging science identifying antibodies against HIV, and a current trial testing a novel vaccine combination against the virus potentially producing more information in the next year, this is an exciting time to hold a conference, organizers of AIDS Vaccine 2012 say.

While scientists and advocates have long agreed that a vaccine against HIV is a crucial component of any scenario of ending the epidemic, the excitement they talk about now isn’t limited to vaccine research.

AIDS Vaccine 2012, which begins this Sunday and runs through Wednesday in Boston, will bring together about 1,000 participants, 120 scientists and scholars, discussion of 440 research studies, and speakers that, along with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, will include researchers known for work in HIV treatment as prevention of transmission, preexposure antiretroviral treatment as prevention (PrEP — or preexposure prophylaxis), and tropical microbicides: Dr. Myron Cohen, Dr. Jared Baeten and Dr. Salim Karim.

“No research trial occurs in a vacuum,” is how Jim Maynard of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network put it, in a preconference Webinar today.  He speaks from experience. The current HVTN 505 trial working with gay men, other men who have sex with men and transgender women, had already changed its focus — from lowering post-infection viral load to preventing infection — and expanded its  enrollment from 1350 to 2200 participants, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the antiretroviral Truvada as preexposure prophylaxis in July 2012. The trial was adapted to include the ability to counsel and refer participants interested in that option.

“As standards of care and prevention evolve,” Maynard said, “they bring opportunities to test multiple strategies. That’s all part of the natural course of clinical research. Studies are more complex but also more relevant. The good news — the world is complex.”

Sound and slides of the Webinar are available at

Webcasts of conference events will be available online, along with the conference program, at

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