Basic scientists and clinical researchers must fully re-engage with the International AIDS Conference, say AIDS experts Jessica Justman and Wafaa M. El-Sadr.
This month, the annual International AIDS Conference will be held in Vienna, Austria. The conference provides a critical opportunity for scientists, clinicians, advocates, policymakers and community members to learn from each other and create a vibrant, needs-based research agenda.
Basic scientists must turn their discoveries into practical solutions; clinical researchers must appreciate the key challenges facing those affected by HIV; and decision-makers must access the knowledge needed to create evidence-based policies.
But the conference's focus on promoting wider access to treatment during the past decade has driven many basic and clinical researchers away. According to Justman and El-Sadr, many prefer to attend focused meetings in their specific interest areas that are seen as 'more scientific'.
"The response to the HIV epidemic is at a crossroads", say Justman and El-Sadr. There is still no vaccine against the disease, and no cure. And the expanding use of antiretroviral therapy has thrown up new questions about diagnostics and mechanisms underlying early mortality.
"These critical questions must be informed not only by clinical, behavioural and operations research, but by progress in basic research", say the authors.
The International AIDS Conference provides a forum for a critical exchange of information and it is vital that scientists fully re-engage with it. This means bringing science back to the centre of the dialogue and ensuring that top scientists present state-of-the-art research at the conference.