Conference calls attention to AIDS epidemic

Published 2011-05-03 00:00. Updated 2013-11-26 10:33

[PRESS INVITATION 2011-04-21] It is now over 30 years since the first case of HIV was discovered and more than 25 million people have already died from AIDS. Karolinska Institutet is holding an international conference to call attention to the successes and setbacks experienced by research, healthcare and society at large.

Journalists are welcome to attend the conference 30 Years of AIDS - Memories, Achievements and Future Perspectives

The AIDS epidemic is a major threat to the world´s population, and in some countries, over 30 per cent of the population is infected with HIV.

"AIDS is a terrible disease and it was a very dramatic time for the healthcare services before antiretroviral drugs came along," says Professor Francesca Chiodi of Karolinska Institutet and one of the co-organisers. "We´ve also learnt a great deal over the years, about drugs, for example, and how pregnant women can be treated so as not to pass the infection on to their babies. We´ve also seen other important things happen. For instance, there have been many generous donors who have distributed free drugs in poor countries."

Never before in the history of medicine has so little time passed between discovery of a disease to the production of effective treatments. Virologist and Nobel laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi contributed to this achievement with her involvement in the discovery of the HIV virus. She is now studying the body´s defences against HIV infection and will be sharing her experiences at the conference.

From early on in the history of HIV, hopes were raised of an effective vaccine. This, however, has proved difficult, largely because the virus keeps changing form. Doctor and professor Eric Sandström will be talking about clinical developments over these past 30 years. He is also involved in collaborations in Tanzania and Mozambique to study new vaccines.

Scientists are also struggling to produce what are known as microbicides. These are anti-viral substances that could be applied to the inside of the vagina before sex. Structural issues, such as research collaborations with developing countries, will also be an important part of the conference.

The conference will be a forum for everyone working with AIDS issues on different levels in society. Professor Barré-Sinoussi will be talking about her continuing efforts to combat the disease. Peter Piot, who has led UNAIDS (the UNs AIDS programme), and Sweden´s HIV ambassador Anders Nordström will be addressing needs and initiatives. Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson will be giving a presentation of the work Sweden is doing to counter the AIDS epidemic. Also contributing will be Karolinska Institutet´s president Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson and the director general of the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, Johan Carlson.

Author Steve Sjöquist has been working with HIV for many years in a wide range of contexts. Mr Sjöquist, who was informed that he was infected with the virus in 1987 when he was 31 years old, will be giving a patient´s perspective on the disease at the conference. There will also be a presentation of different parts of Face of Aids, a major project by film producer Staffan Hildebrand documenting the AIDS epidemic since 1987.

"30 Years of AIDS - Memories, Achievements and Future Perspectives" is a joint initiative by Karolinska Institutet, Face of AIDS, the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, the Journal of Internal Medicine, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and EU FP6 Europrise Network of Excellence.

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