On July 20 I will be leaving the rolling green hills of Northumberland County, a quietly rural patch of Ontario, for the great city of Paris. I am fortunate enough to be representing PositiveLite.com at the International AIDS Society Conference there. (Officially it's called the 9yj IAS Conference on HIV Science.) It will attract some 5,000 attendees. You will see it referred to everywhere as #IAS2017.
It will be the fifth international AIDS Conference I’ve had the privilege of covering, potentially the most exciting. That’s because it’s in Paris – duh – and I've never been up the Eiffel Tower, but the lineup of events interests me.
Believe me, it's hard work. If I am to file daily reports for PositiveLite.com, as I did last year from Durban, South Africa, it means working in to the wee small hours from a cramped hotel room. I’m tempted though, to stick to Facebook where there is less formality, more immediacy. We will see.
Undoubtedly the highlight will be a press conference to be held July 24. It’s about an issue close to my heart – Undetectable = Untransmittable. The announcement being made there – I know what it is and it’s not much of a secret but it’s major – involves UNAIDS. Three guesses! Anyway, I’ll be there to record the moment. So will the man behind the U=U campaign, the incredibly modest Bruce Richman and I hope my colleague Christian Hui and other Canadians. Tears will be shed, I am sure. The thought alone makes me teary-eyed. (The U=U team is an incredibly emotional bunch of advocates, in case you hadn’t noticed.)
What else is going to be going down? The IAS has conveniently provided a list of highlights.
• Findings on safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of long-acting, injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
• Interim data on the efficacy of a dolutegravir-based regimen as a second-line treatment in a resource-limited setting
• Clinical trial findings on the impact of a broadly neutralizing antibody on time to viral rebound
• Final results from the Opposites Attract study on treatment as prevention for male serodiscordant couples
• Clinical update on a perinatally infected child following prolonged cessation of antiretroviral treatment
• Interim results on the feasibility, safety and efficacy of direct-acting antivirals to treat hepatitis C in sub-Saharan Africa
• Results from a trial of a shorter and more sustainable treatment regimen for HIV-associated meningitis
• First evidence of the impact of scaling up treatment and prevention in the country with the highest HIV rates in the world
• New estimates of the clinical and economic impacts of integrating HIV treatment into maternal and child health services
For me, the pick of that bunch is the final results of the Opposite Attracts Study. Look for even more conclusive evidence that U=U. Think icing on the cake rather than new revelations.
And then there is Paris. Typically those working the media beat are fully tied up and don’t have much free time to explore the host city. We take the job seriously. It’s far from a junket. But I haven’t been to Paris in about 50 years. It was wondrous then. I HAVE to see the sights again so I will make time for the Eiffel Tower and more if it kills me.