International conference in Montreal |  The fight against COVID-19 as a driving force in the fight against AIDS

International conference in Montreal | The fight against COVID-19 as a driving force in the fight against AIDS

Thousands of AIDS specialists converge on Montreal this weekend for the annual International Conference on the issue. The good and bad effects of the pandemic on the fight against AIDS will be at the heart of the discussions.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Mathieu Perreault

Mathieu Perreault
The Press

“The theme is re-engagement and respect for science,” says Jean-Pierre Routy of McGill University, who is co-chair of the AIDS 2022 conference. “We have to put the HIV pandemic in its place. COVID-19 has altered antiretroviral prevention and therapy, particularly in Africa, due to lockdowns. And there has been a lot of fake news, which is also a problem in the fight against HIV. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

The Dr Jean-Pierre Routy, professor at McGill University and co-chair of the AIDS 2022 conference

Among the upsides of the pandemic, the considerable advances in messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as in monoclonal antibodies, used to treat COVID-19. “We were already thinking about mRNA vaccines for HIV, but now we have been able to launch clinical trials,” says Dr.r Routy. As for monoclonal antibodies, they could be useful for strategies of total destruction of HIV, which hides in reservoirs in patients whose disease is well controlled by triple therapy.

Smallpox and STBBIs

Themes that were increasingly dominant in pre-pandemic congresses are becoming increasingly central. This is the case with prevention and treatment in Africa, including the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP), drugs that allow HIV-negative people to have unprotected sex without the risk of be infected. Lack of funding and culturally inappropriate approaches, sometimes denounced as “colonialism”, are problematic. The same barriers complicate prevention and treatment among sexual and ethnic minorities and in Indigenous communities in North America.

The recent monkeypox crisis reinforces aspects of the conference program that focus on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which have been on the rise for years due to the success of PreP.

We don’t want to stigmatize men who have sex with other men, the population most affected by monkeypox. But it is a real problem, there is likely to be a hot debate.

The Dr Jean-Pierre Routy, professor at McGill University and co-chair of the AIDS 2022 conference

Triple therapy in war zones will also be discussed. “With Ukraine, unfortunately, it is a burning issue, says the Dr Routy. But we also see the problem elsewhere, in Eritrea for example. »

The pandemic has also affected the congress by slowing down the obtaining of visas for several of the 7,000 foreign researchers invited.

Autopsies of HIV-positive patients who died of another disease

A pre-conference on curing AIDS was held Thursday at the CHUM. One of the presentations reviewed the autopsies of two HIV-positive patients who died of another disease. “We were able to see the amount of virus that there is in the different organs, and the places where there are viruses capable of replicating”, says Éric Cohen, one of the organizers of the pre-conference, who is a specialist of HIV at the IRCM. “It’s important to identify where the reservoirs of HIV are in patients whose disease is controlled by triple therapy. The CHUM will be responsible for a series of similar autopsies. The presentation on the two autopsies was made by Caroline Dufour, doctoral candidate.

Learn more

  • 1.5 million
    Number of new HIV infections worldwide in 2021

    source: World Health Organization

    500,000
    Expected number of new HIV infections globally in 2021, based on pre-pandemic projections

    source: World Health Organization

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