Under the global theme “Universal Action Now!”, the XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008) focused on the goal of universal access for HIV prevention, treatment and care that is supposed to be achieved by 2010. The Universal Access report had just been published and two years after the original deadline the 3 million target set in the framework of the 3 by 5 WHO initiative had been reached..
With more than 24,000 participants from over 190 countries, AIDS 2008 it was the second largest meeting in the history of the International AIDS Conference.
Central themes included the need to scale up prevention and in this context, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is a critical platform that cannot yield outcomes without integration/linkages with Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Programmes. There is no new technology in terms of vaccine or microbicides on the horizon and hence prevention continues to be the key pillar. Concentrated epidemics and vulnerable population groups like for example men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender, indigenous populations, migrants and mobile population were part of the conference agenda, many among them for the first time. The need for a human rights approach in terms of HIV prevention and promotion of respect for human rights and participation of the communities were recognized as integral parts of the response to HIV. Health Systems Strengthening emerged as a key theme in many sessions both satellite and plenary and there was basically a consensus that disease-specific and overall systems strengthening are essential and the flow of discussion was towards ¨diagonal systems¨ rather than ¨vertical/horizontal¨ approach to health systems. The other key issues that were on the agenda included monitoring and evaluation, pediatric antiretroviral treatment, young people and HIV and TB/HIV co-infection.