©International AIDS Society/Marten van Dijl

 ©International AIDS Society/Marten van Dijl

During the summer months our research staff and students travel to conferences across the world to share their research and meet others in their field. HIV/AIDS is a major focus of research in our Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, and we were strongly represented at last week’s 22nd international AIDS conference in Amsterdam.

Professor Lucie Cluver presented multiple times, including Two years and counting: How to reach the most vulnerable children and families, a panel on progress towards the 2020* goals, and at a high-level panel on Scaling Breakthrough Innovations to Transform the Adolescent AIDS Response. Lucie’s work was also highlighted as one of the ‘extraordinary women leaders in the HIV response’ in a new UNICEF report launched alongside the conference, Women: At the Heart of the HIV Response for Children. You can download the report here, a fascinating read.

A number of associates and former students of the department were also involved at AIDS2018, including Elona Toska who co- presented an update from the Mzantsi Wakho project, Socio-economic drivers of vulnerability in HIV-positive youth in South Africa, and Marija Pantelic who co-facilitated a workshop on how to prevent burnout among activists. Marija also wrote a timely blog for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance after the conference looking at critical knowledge gaps that remain in the field.

As well as contributions from established researchers past and present, it is fantastic to see our current students getting involved at conferences. DPhil student Madison Little presented an oral abstract on a systematic review authored with Dr Franziska Meinck: What do we know about interventions to prevent and reduce gender-based violence among young people living with, or most affected by, HIV in low- and middle-income countries? And DPhil student Roxanna Haghighat presented an oral abstract on 90-90-48*: The reality of viral suppression among ART-initiated adolescents in South Africa.

Here's what Roxanna had to say about the conference: "AIDS 2018 was an incredible experience and a unique opportunity to engage with stakeholders across all aspects of HIV/AIDS work: from people living with HIV to social activists to top researchers and high-level policymakers. At the conference, I presented findings from my doctoral research, based on work with Lucie Cluver and the Mzantsi Wakho team. It was a great honour and privilege to be asked to do an oral presentation with a panel of some of the top researchers, including Prof. Cluver, especially at this early stage of my career. Attending the conference helped me better understand the landscape of HIV/AIDS research--how far we've come, what gaps in knowledge still remain, and what the future of the research and implementation might look like. The conference also provided me with an opportunity to meet with several researchers whose work I have admired and plan to collaborate with in the future."

*90-90-90 is the ambitious target set by UNAIDS for 90% of people living with HIV to know their status, to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and for that therapy to have viral suppression. UNAIDS published their annual Global AIDS Update: Miles to Go last week. Drawing on work from our researchers and others across the globe, they warn that ‘partial success in saving lives and stopping new HIV infections is giving way to complacency’. We look forward to the next phase of research from this department, as we continue to challenge complacency and champion programmes that are proved to work.

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