Climate change and the global program to combat AIDS that is currently mired in Congress are among the topics headlining one of the largest U.S. infectious disease meetings in Boston.
Organizers of the five-day meeting, which is called IDWeek, say 8,600 people have registered to attend in person and another 1,700 will participate virtually. The meeting, which is being held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, is the joint annual meeting of five organizations: the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the Society of Infectious Disease Pharmacists.
Heather Yun, M.D., deputy commander for medical services at the Brooke Army Medical Center outside of San Antonio, Texas, and one of the chairs of the program committee for the meeting, pointed to the closing plenary session on the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) on as a highlight of the meeting in an email to Managed Healthcare Executive.
The program, which is in its 20th year, is credited with saving 25 million lives, mainly in Africa, but its future is doubt. Republicans have blocked reauthorization of the program because some of the AIDS organizations that PEPFAR funds also provide abortion services.
Yun did not mention the abortion and the political ensnarement of PEPFAR in her email, but she praised the program and said the session will involve analysis of its impact not just on HIV and AIDS but as “a platform for other successful public health interventions including COVID-19 response.” Yun also said that lessons learned from PEPFAR may carry forward to current efforts to reduce the number of new HIV infections to levels low enough to where the epidemic could be declared over.
Mark Dybul, M.D., a professor in the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, is the scheduled keynote speaker of the PEPFAR session. The biographical information about Dybul on his page on the university’s website says he led the implementation of the program.
The PEPFAR session also features a four-member panel that includes Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha, M.D.; Matthew M. Kavanagh, Ph.D.; Jean Nachega, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.; and Angeli Achrekar, Dr.P.H, M.P.H.
Yun also mentioned a late-breaker session on malaria and other vector-borne and climate-related infectious diseases that will be led by Dimitrios P. Kontoyiannis, M.D., Ph.D., M.S., Sc.D., of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Andrea Morrison, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., a vector-borne disease surveillance coordinator at Florida Department of Health. A search on “climate change” on the meeting’s website yielded a list of 11 sessions, including one led by Kontoyiannis titled, “The High-Level Story: Climate Change Brings New Infectious Diseases.” A number of the climate change session focus on activism and healthcare working to reduce the emissions that cause climate change. For example, a session on Thursday is titled, “Climate Change Is a Pandemic: Decreasing Emissions Is the Vaccine We Need To Be Part of the Solution.”
Artificial intelligence is also getting airtime at the meeting. It is not a new topic but Yun said “there is new urgency to the requirement that we become familiar with its fundamentals as applied to medical practice, and be forward leaning with regard to its potential applications in the field of ID.” Isaac Kohane, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School and co-author of “The AI Revolution in Medicine” is giving the opening plenary address tomorrow afternoon.