NIAID Director Anthony Fauci Reviews COVID-19 Science at Fast-Track Cities Conference on HIV, TB, and Viral Hepatitis

Mayors of Atlanta, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Lisbon, and Quezon City Discuss Urban Crisis Leadership during Public Health Emergencies

WASHINGTON, DC, USA (September 9, 2020) – Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), opened the Virtual Fast-Track Cities 2020 conference today on a cautious note, reminding the more than 1,500 online delegates that scientific progress against COVID-19 must rest on a solid foundation of evidence science and influenced by sound public health policies.

Dr. Fauci emphasized that, although people living with HIV who are on effective treatment are not at increased risk of severe COVID-19 complications, people who have underlying co-morbidities are at an elevated risk. He expressed hope that a safe and effective vaccine would be approved soon:

“We would hope that by the time we get to the end of this calendar year that we would have a vaccine that is both safe and effective,” said Dr. Fauci, who noted that millions of vaccine doses are already being prepared once a candidate receives authorization. In response to a follow-up question about the intersection of politics and public health policy, he remarked, “You have to be able to function in the context of good health practices when it seems that everything is politicized.”

The Virtual Fast-Track Cities 2020 conference is the second annual gathering of more than 300 cities and municipalities around the world that are committed to ending their HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and viral hepatitis epidemics by 2030. Progress towards this commitment has been interrupted by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused disruptions in HIV and other health services worldwide.

“IAPAC is proud of the healthcare workers who are putting themselves on the line to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the scientists and public health experts working to develop and prepare for the distribution of vaccines and treatments using time-tested trial and approval processes,” said Dr. José M. Zuniga, President/CEO of IAPAC, which is co-convening the Virtual Fast-Track Cities 2020 conference with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Fast-Track Cities Institute.

Echoing an assertion he made in a commentary published today in the journal AIDS Reviews, Dr. Zuniga indicated that the public health response to SARS-CoV-2 got a head-start by relying on the existing infrastructure that was built to end the HIV epidemic, but that leveraging that infrastructure served to disrupt a continuity of health services care for people living with HIV, TB, viral hepatitis, and other chronic diseases.

“In the midst of this global public health crisis, civic leaders at all levels of government are recognizing the urgent need to repair the cracks in our health infrastructure that have been laid bare by COVID-19 and to improve preparedness for future pandemics,” Dr. Zuniga added. “We cannot end any epidemic until everyone has equal access to the prevention, testing, and treatment services that are essential elements of the human right to health.”

Today’s program included four cross-cutting plenaries focused on confronting the COVID-19 “infodemic” as a public health threat; addressing health disparities contributing to uneven COVID-19 outcomes in communities of color; facilitating the continuity of HIV and other health responses (e.g., TB, viral hepatitis; and addressing the fragility that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed in almost every health system worldwide).

The conference’s second day (September 10, 2020) will feature clinical case studies from 18 Fast-Track Cities from around the world to illustrate public health leadership in responding to COVID-19 in urban areas. These illustrative case studies (including Atlanta, Bangkok, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Kigali, Kyiv, Lisbon, London, Lusaka, Maputo City, Mexico City, Milan, Melbourne, Montréal, New York City, Paris, São Paulo, and Yaoundé) will report on the latest data trends and disruptions to health services, highlight innovations to maintain continuity of care for people living with HIV and other chronic diseases, and offer emerging insights about pandemic preparedness.

The conference will conclude on Thursday, September 10, 2020, with a closing panel of global public health experts representing UNAIDS; the World Health Organization (WHO); the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); UNITE (a global network of national parliamentarians); and the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC). The panel will discuss how best to implement mitigation strategies to protect hard-won gains towards attaining HIV, TB, and viral hepatitis targets.

The live program at the Virtual Fast-Track Cities 2020 conference follows a day of pre-recorded, pre-conference sessions that aired September 8, 2020. The conference is made possible through corporate sponsorship from Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare.

Registration for the Virtual Fast-Track Cities 2020 conference and access to the pre-conference sessions is available free-of-charge.

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