Opening session of IAS conference on HIV Science

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Jens Spahn, Germany’s Federal Minister of Health, accepted that the global response to COVID-19 has been slow but stressed that political decisions had been made to increase global vaccine access, and supply would increase briskly in the coming months. Yvette Raphael, a South African activist living with HIV, recounted her struggle to fight stigma and discrimination relating to HIV, gender and race/ethnicity. She reminded the audience that scientific data relate to real people with human relationships. 

“The multilateral response makes a difference—we have learnt that from HIV.”

“Follow the science, that’s really what he feels very strongly about.”

Jens Spahn Federal Minister of Health, Germany

Story Highlights

  • The panel’s speakers drew parallels between the need for global solidarity for COVID-19, especially with regard to access to vaccines, and for HIV, recognizing that both viruses spread regardless of borders and need a global response. They also spoke about the imperative to not let the HIV response be slowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Repeated emphasis was made on the bi-directionality of COVID-19 and HIV investments, reminding the audience of the importance of investment in HIV science for developments in COVID-19.

  • Soumya Swaminathan, the Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, reflected on the priorities of primary health care and universal health coverage. Perhaps the most frequent and strongly felt sentiments concerned the need to combat misinformation and disregard for science. “Follow the science” was a phrase that resonated over the course of the rich discussion.

Anthony Fauci Chief Medical Adviser to the President of the United States of America, describing his interactions with Joe Biden

“As activists, we know how to fight.”

Yvette Raphael Advocacy for Prevention of HIV and AIDS, South Africa “Everyone has to be part of the solution.”

Soumya Swaminathan Chief Scientist, World Health Organization