Highlights from the 15th Bangkok International Symposium on HIV Medicine 2012

As we are busy preparing for the 2013 Bangkok International Symposium, it gives me a great pleasure to recap some hot topics from the last Symposium. More than 700 participants from all over the world came to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the 15th Bangkok International Symposium 2012 where interactive workshops and lectures by more than 50 experts in the HIV field took place.

In his session on “Treatment 2.0: What, How, When?“, Dr. Andrew Hill from the Pharmacology Department of Liverpool University in the United Kingdom gave an interesting perspective on how to help 15 million people who do not yet need treatment to have access to ARVs in the future. To fulfill the WHO/UNAIDS vision in achieving and sustaining universal access and maximize the preventive benefits of ART amidst the global financial crisis and dwindling global funding, we need a combination of lower costs and increased funding. Moreover, new ways to fund ARV need to be explored. Dr. Hill presented that “global health charge”, the charges on alcohol and tobacco, would allow middle and low income countries to fund access to HIV, TB and malaria treatments. To illustrate, if these countries introduce a small extra charge on alcohol and tobacco, for example 1 USD cent per unit of alcohol (0.5 THB for one bottle of beer) and 10 USD cents per packet of 20 cigarettes (3.3 THB), the money collected can fund access to HIV, TB and malaria treatments, on the national level, in 10 countries including Thailand, China and India. With the simple “global health charge”, many countries will be able to afford universal access for HIV prevention and treatment.

The motion on the Great Debate was on whether Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PreP) should be offered as part of standard HIV prevention for Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). The “pro” team comprised Dr. Nittaya Phanuphak and Professor Joep Lange argued that the availability of PreP to MSM will help prevent HIV infection in MSM as taking PreP daily is reported to help decrease HIV transmission. Dr. Phanuphak and Professor Lange proposed that PreP is one of the effective HIV prevention methods available “now” for MSM, suggesting that it would be unethical to not offer what would work for HIV prevention to this population at high risk for HIV. Nevertheless, the “con” team comprised Dr. Annette Sohn and Professor Frits van Griensven, made equally strong points that we are not yet ready to offer PrEP to MSM as a standard prevention intervention due to the high costs (required not only for drugs but also for adherence support and HIV testing) and other factors related to adherence and unknown long-term harm. Having managed to convince more minds to believe that PreP should not be part of standard HIV prevention for MSM, the “con” team won the Great Debate.

The next Bangkok International Symposium on HIV Medicine will be just as exciting, if not more. It will take place from 16-18 January 2013. Please stay tuned for more details on the program.

See Photos for the 2012 International Bangkok Symposium
Thank you: Art Aids, Born to Live, Living and Loving