Burnet research honoured at AIDS 2022

Image: Professor Mark Stoové (centre) among prize-winners at AIDS 2022

Burnet Institute Research Officer Dr Rachel Sacks-Davis and Head of Public Health Professor Mark Stoové have been recognised for their outstanding research with an IAS/MSD Prize for Research in HIV Prevention at the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022).

AIDS 2022 is the world’s premier HIV conference, bringing together community leaders, researchers, clinicians, advocates, and people with lived experiences from around the world.

Dr Sacks-Davis and Professor Stoové were honoured for their work as part of the International Collaboration on Hepatitis C Elimination in HIV Cohorts (InCHEHC).

Their analysis found that hepatitis C reinfection rates in people with HIV reduced or stabilised after countries made direct-acting antivirals available.

“It’s an important finding because it shows hepatitis C reinfection is unlikely to pose a major challenge to eliminating the disease,” Dr Sacks-Davis said.

“We’re really grateful for this prize, it highlights the great collaborative efforts across eleven cohorts in six countries that have led to these important findings.”

Professor Stoové also chaired and provided the opening remarks at a session on needle and syringe programs in prisons and other closed settings.

Another highlight of the conference was the appointment of Doherty Institute Director and former Burnet Board Director Professor Sharon Lewin AO as President of the International AIDS Society.

AIDS 2022 saw a suite of new guidelines released by the World Health Organization (WHO), including new Consolidated guidelines on HIV, viral hepatitis and STI prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.

“These guidelines contain new recommendations which were directly informed by work undertaken by Burnet researchers,” said Burnet Institute researcher and PhD candidate Michael Traeger, who was also at AIDS 2022.

“They include recommendations for hepatitis C testing among people at ongoing risk of infection and providing treatment for hepatitis C without delay to people with recently acquired infection and ongoing risk.”

The WHO has also launched its first guidelines on long-acting injectable PrEP, recommending for the first time that long-acting injectable PrEP may be offered as an additional HIV prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV infection.

“There was a lot of discussion about the emerging monkeypox outbreak at AIDS 2022, as well as demonstrations from advocates reinforcing the urgency for greater and more equitable vaccine distribution,” Mr Traeger said.

Key learnings from the outbreak response in Montreal highlighted the importance of community engagement, and rapid and wide rollout of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) via vaccination of at-risk populations.

“Rapid public health responses like that of Montreal are urgently needed around the world.”

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