Credited with discovering HIV, French virologist Francois Barre-Sinoussi has told an audience in Sydney that all segments of society – government, scientists, clinicians and other stakeholders – need to work together to “accelerate the pace” of the world’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The comments came during a function hosted by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner inside state Parliament House on Thursday October 17.
Awarded a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008, Barre-Sinoussi (pictured, centre) is currently president of the International AIDS Society which will be hosting the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne in less than 12 months time.
“Over the last decade we have witnessed exceptional improvements in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Recent UN data shows a drastic reduction in new HIV infections among adults and children, more and more people accessing treatment and a dramatic decline of AIDS related deaths,” she said.
“Despite the advances, 6,300 people globally are still infected daily, and under the new WHO treatment guidelines, only 34 percent of people in need have access to treatment. Clearly, we need to do better and to accelerate the pace.
“The AIDS2014 conference will highlight the many barriers that are impeding effective access for all to prevention and care. Many countries in the world experience concentrated epidemics and there is an immense need to address key-affected populations that are often left behind.”
Barre-Sinoussi’s co-chair for AIDS 2014, Professor Sharon Lewin from Monash University, told the audience that with the deadline for the 2015 UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) fast approaching it was important HIV issues remained a key focus of international development.
“Unfortunately stigma and discrimination that existed 30 years ago still remains and continues to impede the application of evidence based prevention and treatment options,” Lewin said.
“Appalling repressive policies, attitudes and practices still exist in many countries – including in our near neighbours in the Asia Pacific where punitive laws relating to drug use, sex work and men who have sex men continue to fuel stigma and discrimination and limit the resourcing of and scale up of clearly successful programs.”
The Millennium Development Goals as established by the UN in 2000 aimed to halt HIV and “begin to reverse the spread” of it by 2015 as well as ensuring there was universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for those who need it.
To be held in July, AIDS 2014 is expected to be the largest medical conference ever held in Australia with an estimated attendance of between 15,000-20,000 people, including many of the world’s leading public health experts and researchers.
Photo: Sharon Lewin and Francois Barre-Sinoussi with NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner (Ann-Marie Calilhanna)