February 24, 2014

Hepatitis C to Share Spotlight at HIV Conference

Medscape Medical News > Conference News

Marcia Frellick

February 24, 2014

BOSTON — Although HIV will dominate the agenda at the 2014 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), related viruses and infections will also be in the limelight.

Several presentations at the conference, being held from March 3 to 6, will focus on advances in the treatment of hepatitis C virus and the barriers to delivery, and the latest developments in tuberculosis (TB) and human papillomavirus.

Lynn Taylor, MD, from the division of infectious diseases at Miriam Hospital, Brown Medical School, in Providence, Rhode Island, told Medscape Medical News that developments in drugs and policy on the hepatitis C front make this year's discussion particularly important.

"We have seen extraordinary, unprecedented improvement in therapies to cure hep C," she said. "We have the potential to eradicate hep C locally, nationally, globally. The focus of our panel is that there's nothing in place yet, on any significant scale, to enhance delivery."

Dr. Taylor described a "crisis" in the United States because baby boomers who never knew they were infected are now discovering it in advanced form. "Seventy-five percent of Americans who have hep C don't even know they have it," she said.

“Ten years ago, you were considered a charlatan if you said hep C was curable.”

Last year, because of the prevalence of hepatitis C in baby boomers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidelines to recommend a 1-time screening for everyone born from 1945 to 1965, in addition to risk-based screening. In December 2013, the European Association for the Study of the Liver revised its clinical practice guidelines on the management of hepatitis C; they will be presented in April before the International Liver Congress.

Dr. Taylor said she is "thrilled" to see the increased attention on hepatitis C at the conference.

"Ten years ago, you were considered a charlatan if you said hep C was curable," she said.

The conference, the most significant HIV research meeting in the world, will attract more than 4000 leading international HIV/AIDS researchers. The goal is to provide a forum for researchers to translate their findings into direct progress in HIV.

Conference to Draw More Than 4000 Researchers

Last year's conference was abuzz with the news that a 2-year-old Mississippi girl, born with HIV and treated early with antiretroviral drugs, had been functionally cured and no longer had detectable levels of the virus, despite not taking medication for 10 months.

This year, speakers will provide updates on the progress toward a cure for HIV, and look at what is standing in the way of getting there.

Adeeba Kamarulzaman, MBBS, from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said she will explain some positive changes for drug users in the HIV fight in countries such as Malaysia.

She will also speak about the impact of the "epidemic of incarceration" and its effects on HIV, as well as coinfection with TB and hepatitis C, she told Medscape Medical News. She will highlight the increase in methamphetamine use and its relation to HIV risk behaviors, particularly in men who have sex with men.

TB is also getting attention at the conference. There will be presentations on the resistance, persistence, monitoring, and control of the disease; the use of novel imaging technology to monitor treatment response; and population-level control of HIV-related TB.

The prevention and treatment of HIV infection in infants will be addressed, as will the short- and long-term consequences of antiretroviral exposure during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

In addition, the outbreak of invasive meningococcal disease that affected men who have sex with men in New York City from 2010 to 2013 will be discussed.

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