Recent evidence has shown that male circumcision is associated with a reduced risk of HIV infection.
Sessions at the conference will examine studies conducted in Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Bangladesh and the United States, and also look at the cost-effectiveness and ethical challenges of circumcision.
Other programme highlights include fresh findings on the origins of HIV, explanations on how select groups of women in Kenya manage to resist infection despite ongoing exposure to the virus, debates around the most effective approach to HIV testing, the role of funding, male circumcision and the use of anti-retrovirals as a pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PREP) is the use of antiretrovirals to prevent HIV infection.
Unlike post-exposure prophylaxis which is administered after potential exposure to HIV such as a needle-stick injury, PREP is intended to prevent HIV infection prior to exposure, and may be particularly beneficial among populations at high risk for HIV infection.
PREP has proven to be effective in preventing HIV infection in animal studies and a number of clinical trials are currently underway to test this in humans.
‘PREP holds immense promise as an effective tool for preventing HIV infection,’ said Dr Helene Gayle, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) and Co-Chair of the conference.
The Toronto AIDS Conference marks two critical moments in the history of the epidemic, Gayle points out.
It was 25 years ago when the first reports of AIDS began circulating and it was 10 years ago, at the 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver that stunning breakthroughs in clinical research that led to Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) were reported.
Craig McClure, IAS Executive Director said the AIDS 2006 theme ‘Time to Deliver’ underscored a continued sense of urgency in achieving the goal of universal access to HIV prevention and treatment.
‘Time to Deliver also recognizes that, while additional resources and continued scientific research are critical, the scientific knowledge and tools to prevent new infections and successfully treat those living with HIV/AIDS already exist.
‘The challenge is to garner the resources and the collective will to translate that knowledge and experience into broadly available HIV treatment and prevention programs,’ said McClure.
Joining McClure in a teleconference from Atlanta, Gayle said the Toronto conference would also be a sober reminder that despite all the advances in science, medicine and prevention, the epidemic continued to outpace best efforts to contain it.
‘We have begun to realize that treatment alone will never contain the epidemic, and a new drive to integrate treatment and prevention is underway,’ Gayle added.
High profile speakers at Toronto 2006 include former presidents Mary Robison and Bill Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates and Richard Gere.
Toronto is set to break many records. A record number of participants, 24 000 have registered representing a 20 percent increase over AIDS 2004 in Bangkok. A record number of abstracts, almost 13 000 were submitted, of which just over 4 500 will be presented orally or in poster form.
Almost 3 000 media representatives from across the world will be reporting on the conference.