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Thousands gather for AIDS conference

Thousands gather for AIDS conference
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Guy Jenkins-Bass, 31, has been managing his HIV condition for 13 years and feels that today he’s a healthy man.

He explains how he developed the condition:
“I was raped at 18 by someone I was dating at the time, and they were positive, and that was my first sexual experience and my first encounter.”

This combination of early and then long-term care is in part fuelling excitement within the AIDS community that a turning point has been reached regarding the disease.

The focus is now on trying to get people treated straight away.

Guy is also grateful for the care he’s received:
“I immediately went to find care in North Carolina, at the time at Duke University, but I don’t think I’ve ever been without it. It’s been an ongoing situation, I’m a strong advocate for it.”

The International AIDS Conference is running this week in Washington DC, with more than 21,000 delegates gathered to discuss infection rates, research and treatment.

Pioneering Iranian doctors Arash and Kamiar Alaei were honoured for their work in the field. Sharon Stone was on hand to hand over the tribute:
“This makes Kamiar and Arash Alaei deserving recipients of the first Elizabeth Taylor human rights award.”

They developed harm reduction programmes including needle exchanges and condom distribution at clinics but fell foul of Iranian authorities and were jailed for some three years.

As he received the award, Dr Arash Alaei said:
“As physicians, we are very pleased to see that today people from different backgrounds and social roles are involved in the field of HIV/AIDS and consider it a critical issue of our time that requires global cooperation. As a result, I do not believe that this award morally belongs to the Alaei brothers, rather I think this is an award to all who are working in this way.”

“Turning the Tide Together” is the theme of the conference, and AIDS expert Dr Anthony Fauci is cautiously optimistic that an AIDS-free generation is becoming a real possibility.

Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said:
“What is very, very clear now, what has happened over the past couple of years since the last international meeting is that we’re seeing that the combinations of treatments and prevention, if you do almost a common sense projection together with modelling – which has its own failings at times because you make assumptions in models – you can actually start realistically looking towards what Secretary Clinton said is the possibility, without any prediction when, of an AIDS-free generation. In other words, ending the AIDS pandemic as we know it.”

Despite improvements, new infections rose by 22% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia since 2005. In the US, heterosexual black women and gay and bisexual men account for most new cases, which arise mainly from poor, urban areas.

Dr Anthony Fauci explained the need to reach this demographic:
“That’s the group that we have failed to seek out aggressively enough to test voluntarily, to convince them to get tested, to link them to care because they’re already, not all, but predominantly in a situation where they don’t have the access to the kind of care that they would need.”

The US recently approved Truvada – a drug that lowers the risk of a healthy person contracting HIV sexually from a partner.

But this week, medical journal The Lancet published a study on drug-resistant HIV in parts of
sub-Saharan Africa.

Globally, 34 million people are infected with AIDS.