AIDS 2020 will include COVID-19 conference

  • by Liz Highleyman, BAR Contributor
  • Thursday April 30, 2020
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Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, shown during a news conference April 29, will appear during a virtual conference on COVID-19 in July.
Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, shown during a news conference April 29, will appear during a virtual conference on COVID-19 in July.

This year's International AIDS Conference will include a daylong meeting on COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The virtual conference will be the first international gathering on COVID-19 for the many stakeholders, including affected communities, in the emerging response. Registration is now open and the COVID-19 sessions will be free and publicly available.

The mini-conference will feature Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, who have a long history of leadership in the national and global HIV/AIDS response and are now the scientific faces of the White House COVID-19 Task Force.

AIDS 2020, sponsored by the International AIDS Society, will take place July 6-10. As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, San Francisco and Oakland were slated to jointly host the meeting, but it was changed to a virtual format because of the COVID-19 crisis. The virtual COVID-19 conference will happen on the last day.

"We as co-chairs and IAS recognized that the AIDS 2020 meeting was being held at the same time as a global pandemic was raging," Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital told the B.A.R. "Since we are the largest global health conference in the world, we wanted to immediately have a simultaneously held conference focused on COVID-19 using the same platform."

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an "unprecedented global emergency" and — just four months after it emerged in China late last year — it is already "the most lethal new pandemic since the emergence of AIDS nearly 40 years ago," according to the IAS. Many of the global HIV experts who will attend AIDS 2020 are also at the forefront of COVID-19 virology, immunology, clinical care, and treatment and vaccine research.

The virtual COVID-19 conference will feature a stand-alone program of plenaries, invited speakers, and abstract-driven sessions exclusively focused on the new disease.

"The special virtual one-day conference will provide a unique opportunity to help shape the evolving global response to COVID-19," noted United Kingdom Dr. Anton Pozniak, who is president of the International AIDS Society and the international chair for AIDS 2020: Virtual.

In addition to Fauci and Birx, speakers will include long-time HIV researchers professor Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the South African Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Advisory Committee, as well as other experts working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

COVID-19 abstracts will be accepted through May 25. Reflecting the usual AIDS conference themes, the COVID-19 meeting will include tracks on basic science, clinical science including testing and treatment, epidemiology and prevention, public health and community-level responses, and the social, economic, political, and human rights impact of the pandemic.

"The HIV response has taught the world a great deal about how to react to a pandemic of enormous scale and high lethality," Gandhi and six other conference organizers wrote in a commentary published April 30 in The Lancet. "The IAS Virtual COVID-19 Conference at AIDS 2020: Virtual will bring together the human family to take on this pandemic. Together we can build resilience in the face of COVID-19."

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