27/05/2013 15:27 BST | Updated 27/07/2013 06:12 BST

From Paris, With Hope, Part 2


It's been a real step back into history these past few days at the Paris symposium to mark the 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV. To be in the presence of so many esteemed scientists who were working at the cutting edge in what were the early darkest days of the epidemic was an honour and to hear some of them recount those still very live experiences at the symposium dinner last Wednesday was a real history lesson.

At the same time it was gratifying to see so many young scientists in attendance at the event. I know it is the wish of my colleague Françoise Barré-Sinoussi to engage with the emerging leaders from all fields of medical research - cancer, brain research, and genomics - in the work being undertaken on HIV cure. There is certainly a growing feeling that the cross fertilisation of research across different faculties will provide the greatest opportunities for advancement for all sides.

Scientifically speaking it is now clear that HIV Cure is, as the AFP headline put it in its preview of the event, "a part of the lexicon." When it comes to HIV Cure research too, gene therapy approaches are very much on the agenda. Modifying cells that potentially engineer HIV control by introducing cells resistant to HIV infection is an area that has attracted great interest ever since the Berlin patient case where the CCR-5 receptor was knocked out via a bone marrow transplant.

I think too there now exists a very real acknowledgement that more targeted drugs and implementation of science on the ground will be key and that this will partly turn on re-energizing collaborations between scientists, health care providers and the community.

At the same time and with the 2015 Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, there appears to be a growing consensus that we are going to need more carefully targeted interventions to focus on the "epidemiological hot spots", that is, focus more stridently on those locations where the epidemic really is up against persistent barriers. This will mean reinvigorating communities and perhaps a fundamental re-think on how we go about business in marginalised communities.

But that can only be a good thing and one I would hope will ultimately drive the science to where it is most needed. The 500 or so scientists who were in Paris these past few days wouldn't want it any other way.