The 2nd HIV Summit in the Middle East accredited by the Health Authority of AbuDhabi and supported by Gilead Sciences has seen over 100 international and Middle East experts convene in Dubai on December 15 and 16, 2017. The Summit, entitled ‘Today’s Choices – Tomorrow’s Health’ discussed recent updates and developments in the field of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the region.

Dr.Samer El-Ali, Medical Director, Gilead Sciences Eastern Europe and Middle East stated:“For the second consecutive year, HIV Summit gathered leading infectious disease experts committed to the exchange of know-how and best practices focused on HIV management. Our ambition is to provide healthcare community in the Middle East a platform for continuous education on the effective HIV treatment, which leads to the better support for the people affected by HIV across the region.”

According to the latest data available from the Joint UN Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) an estimated36.7 million [30.8 million–42.9 million] people globally are living with HIV. Even though new HIV infections have declined by 16% since 2010, 1.8 million [1.6 million–2.1 million] became newly infected with HIV in 2016. Today 1 in 3 people living with HIV still do not know their HIV status, so only 20.9 million [18.4 million–21.7 million] were accessing antiretroviral therapy in June 2017and 1.0 million [830 000–1.2 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2016.[i]

On occasion of World AIDS day Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, issued a statement saying: “Providing the right health services to those who need them, in itself, isn’t enough. If we are to achieve equity, to reach universal health coverage and to ensure the right to health for all, we need to work beyond the health system. The broader policy and social environment continues to play a critical role in shaping HIV epidemics and facilitating or hindering effective responses. The principle of ‘everybody counts’ must be enshrined in policies, laws and practices that span across all relevant sectors, adopting a whole-of-government approach.”

In 2016, there were 230 000 [160 000–380 000] people living with HIV in the Middle East and North Africa, out of which an estimated 18 000 [11 000–39 000] were new HIV infections and an estimated 11 000 [7700–19 000] people died of AIDS-related illnesses. Between 2010 and 2016, the number of AIDS-related deaths in the region increased by 19%. When it comes to the treatment coverage, 24% [15–41%] among people living with HIV have been receiving treatment[ii]

The experts at the HIV Summit aimed to explore the challenges of linkage to care as a key factor in changing the HIV epidemiology and achieving the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal[iii]particularly focusing on optimising community testing and access to treatment as prerequisites for linkage to care.

Dr Abdullah al Hokail, ID Consultant, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh stated: “One of the problems we are facing in the middle East is the access to the testing, mainly because many people are not aware how serious the problem is. Across the region, there is the avoidance of the topic in the media. But people need to be educated. Testing is very important and it is a key to linkage to care and viral suppression. People also shy away from the testing as they are afraid of potential consequences. Namely in some countries around the Middle East HIV positive expats might be asked to leave, while locals might lose their jobs. Therefore, in order to improve testing rates these aspects need to be re-evaluated.”

The treatment and management of HIV has come a long way, with many of HIV patients now able to look forward to having a normal life expectancy. As such, HIV is now a chronic manageable condition;therefore, experts at the Summit looked beyond virologic suppression and prevention of opportunistic infections, with the objective to consider the whole picture in HIV care.

Jacques Mokhbat MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Lebanese American University, School of Medicine said:“It is very important to spread the message of the importance of the treatment not only to the population at risk or vulnerable population, but also to the decisionmakers, ministers and governments. They need to understand that the treatment works, is effective, preserves life and stops transmission. They need to understand that individuals who are on treatment and responding well will live a normal and healthy life, with a normal lifespan and quality of life. Understanding this will stop the spread of epidemic.”

The 2nd HIV Summit provided an interactive platform to review the recent clinical data and to share real-world experiences of treating complex patient cases with HIV in Western and Middle-Eastern regions. Infectious disease leaders at the Summit shared insights and best practices that can optimize the treatment outcomes for HIV patients. Experts from UAE,KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, UK and Germany had an opportunity to exchange know-how and challenges with some of the world’s leading infectious disease specialists.

By creating a continuous medical education platform that empowers local, regional and international infectious disease experts to connect and exchange ideas, Gilead Sciences reaffirms its commitment to educational efforts for healthcare professionals in the field of HIV.

 

[i] http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet
[ii] http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/UNAIDS_FactSheet_en.pdf
[iii]UNAIDS treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic –By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.

By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

 

Source: Grayling