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Keynote lecture by Professor Françoise BARRE-SINOUSSI

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the identification of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), HKU-Pasteur Research Pole has invited its discoverer, Professor Françoise BARRE-SINOUSSI to deliver a keynote lecture entitled “Challenges of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Treatment in the 21st Century” on the 24th of July 2013.

150 audiences from government including Dr Dr CHAN Hon-yee, Constance, JP, Director of Health, and from academic and civil societies attended her lecture at the Li Kha Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong.

Over 30 million people have died from AIDS since it was first identified in 1981. After 30 years of HIV/AIDS research, Professor BARRE-SINOUSSI shared in the lecture her optimism towards an HIV cure. Indeed, cure is now part of lexicon as several recent studies (Berlin and Boston patients’ cases, Mississippi baby’s case and VISCONTI study) have shown a proof of concept of “functional cure” meaning that while the virus is not eradicated and traces of it exist, it is not expected to become active again. These studies demonstrated also that rapid HIV detection and treatment are crucial and point to functional cure for AIDS.

Nevertheless many challenges remain. As prevention is early treatment, universal access to HIV diagnosis, treatment and care for all HIV patients is a major issue. Effort in vaccine development should be also pursued but would greatly benefit from a better understanding of mechanism of protection. She added that future research priorities should focus on understanding the mechanism that controls HIV persistence, development of news assays and experimental models to detect/measure viral reservoirs and development/evaluation of new therapeutic tools and immune strategies to achieve remission. These goals could only be achieved through the implementation of an integrated scientific strategy.

Professor BARRE-SINOUSSI will continue to be a stoic defender of funding for research which in many countries is under threat because of the economic crisis and keeps emphasising the central importance of political will. She has recently welcomed France’s renewed contribution to Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

She has also been contending for human rights and social justice against discrimination, stigmatization and prejudice, working closely with community groups which was praised by Dr Susan FAN, Chairperson of the Hong Kong Advisory Council on AIDS during the closing remarks.

As tomorrow’s scientific and medical discoveries and breakthroughs depend on the next generation of scientists, Professor BARRE-SINOUSSI has recently spent a whole week with the students of the 10th HKU-Pasteur Virology Course on HIV/AIDS, co-organised by HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, Institut Pasteur and the HKU AIDS Institute.

This keynote lecture was co-organised by HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, HKU AIDS Institute and the Hong Kong Advisory Council on AIDS, and was sponsored by Air France.

About Professor Françoise BARRE-SINOUSSI

Françoise BARRE-SINOUSSI, PhD, is the Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections unit at the Institute Pasteur in Paris. She has been involved in retrovirology research since the early 1970s. She is recognized for her contributions to HIV and AIDS research, in particular as the first author of the publication that reported in 1983 the discovery of a retrovirus, later named HIV, in a patient at risk for AIDS. In 1988, she became responsible for her own laboratory at the Institute Pasteur and initiated research programmes on viral and host determinants of HIV/AIDS pathogenesis. Between 1988 and 1998, she was also involved in collaborative programmes on HIV vaccine research, using primate models. Today, the research of her team is focused on mechanisms required to induce protection against HIV/AIDS in human and non-human primates.

Along with her research activities, Professor BARRE-SINOUSSI has been involved in promoting integration between HIV and AIDS research and actions in resource-limited countries, in particular through the Institute Pasteur International network and the coordination of research programmes conducted in South-east Asia as part of an official cooperation between the French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) and the Ministries of Health in Cambodia and Vietnam, reflecting her strong commitment to building capacity, training and technology transfers on site in Africa and Asia. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Global Scientific Strategy, Towards an HIV Cure, being developed under the auspices of the International AIDS Society (IAS).

Professor BARRE-SINOUSSI is author and co-author of 270 original publications and more than 120 articles in book reviews. She has received more than 10 national or international awards, including the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 together with Professor Luc MONTAGNIER for her contributions to HIV and AIDS. She has been awarded Doctor Honoris Causa of a number of universities and in February 2009 she was elected a member of the French Academy of Science.


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