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SA to play central role at AIDS2012
<p>Anso Thom</p>
July 17, 2012

Deputy-President Kgalema Motlanthe and health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi will join a high-level line-up addressing the 19th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) starting in Washington on Sunday.

Taking place for the first time in the United States, it was announced yesterday (TUES) that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former US First Lady Laura Bush, US Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham, US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, The Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs and Motlanthe will be among the high-level speakers.

An estimated 25 000 of the world’s top AIDS researchers, community leaders, and other stakeholders will meet in Washington DC from Sunday.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, (Myanmar/Burma) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will both address the conference via video. Actress Sharon Stone will also present the inaugural amfAR/International AIDS Society Elizabeth Taylor Award at the Opening Session.

President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, Motsoaledi, philanthropist Bill Gates,  Sir Elton John, musician and founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation,actress Whoopi Goldberg and Motsoaledi were announced in June as speakers at AI DS 2012.

Bush will speak at a Special Session, Leadership in the AIDS Response for Women while Motlanthe will address two Special Sessions, How Do We Get There? Country Planning for Maximum Impact and China, India, South Africa, Brazil: How Will They Use Their Leadership to Advance the AIDS Response?

“We are delighted to welcome the world’s leading AIDS scientists and activists to AIDS 2012, and to have secured these high-level keynote speakers at this crucial time in the global response to HIV,” said Elly Katabira, International Chair of AIDS 2012 and President of the International AIDS Society (IAS).

 In the last few years various research trials, in which South Africa played a central role, including HPTN 052, CAPRISA 004, TDF2, Partners PrEP, and iPrEx have demonstrated with solid evidence the efficacy of HIV treatment as prevention, while other studies are currently investigating the possibility of a cure for HIV.

“The past few years have been a scientific watershed in the life of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, one that has given us the tools to potentially make major inroads into the epidemic on an unprecedented scale,” said Katabira.

 “AIDS 2012 represents a unique occasion to mobilize policy makers, governments, NGOs, scientists, people living with HIV and civil society to join forces,” said Dr Diane Havlir, US Co-Chair of AIDS 2012 and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

 “The economic times are tough but the science is telling us that we’d be irresponsible to miss this historic moment. And many of those scientists who have been at the forefront of new research around treatment as prevention and HIV reservoirs will be present at the conference. Now, more than ever we need to seize the moment, attract funding to invest in AIDS research and at the same time promote programmes based on effectiveness and efficiency that optimize the use of resources,” she said.