Switch On Your HIV Smarts.

San Francisco HIV experts: What did you learn at CROI 2016?

, by Emily Land

The HIV community has a lot of information to digest after an annual CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections) conference. This year, CROI was held from February 21 to 25 with  hundreds of talks and posters presented during that time. Over 4,000 attendees packed conference halls, auditoriums and poster sessions to hear the latest HIV research on prevention, treatment, care and public health interventions. It was easy to get lost in all of this exciting research!

BETA wanted to distill some of these important findings by asking some prominent San Francisco Bay Area providers to give us their take on the conference. We asked, “What did you find interesting? What did you find exciting? And, what did you learn?”

Here’s what they had to say.

Judith Auerbach

Judith Auerbach, PhD

Judith Auerbach, PhD, from University of California, San Francisco

“There was a lot of buzz at CROI about the dapivirine ring studies for PrEP, and the extent to which the moderate efficacy outcomes meant “the cup is half empty” or “the cup is half full.”  But, one of the most important things I heard during the presentation of the IPM [International Partnership for Microbicides] study was when Annalene Nel [the presenter] mentioned at the end how the women in the trial reacted with great positive emotion when they heard the findings.  She told of their pride and joy at having been part of something that was going to help women like themselves prevent HIV acquisition.  Researchers often don’t report on the reaction of the study participants (or their communities) when results are shared, but, in the end, these are the very people who not only made the trial successful, but also will benefit from uptake of the ring. So, I was very pleased that Dr. Nel made a point of acknowledging the centrality of these women in the context of the overall efficacy findings.”

Susan Buchbinder, MD

Susan Buchbinder, MD

Susan Buchbinder, MD, CROI 2016 vice chair, from San Francisco Department of Public Health

“It is so heartening to see the major progress that’s been made in HIV prevention. This reminds me of the time, post-1996, when highly active treatment became available and changed our city, and then our world. At CROI this year, we’ve seen further evidence of the roll-out of treatment, and that PrEP, given by pill and eventually by shot or vaginal ring, can nearly stop new infections, if people want them and use them regularly. But, we have to understand what the most heavily impacted populations want so that we can eliminate disparities in HIV.”

Robert Grant, MD, MPH

Robert Grant, MD, MPH

Robert Grant, MD, MPH, from the Gladstone Institutes at University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco AIDS Foundation

“We heard that the developmental pipeline for new PrEP agents is full, although it will be many years before any new products become available for use. The dapivirine vaginal ring is effective, new variants of tenofovir (called TAF) were effective in animal models, long acting injectable cabotegravir is safe for PrEP.  For now, we know that HIV treatment that suppresses viral load and oral PrEP are highly effective when used.”

Meredith Greene, MD

Meredith Greene, MD

Meredith Greene, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco

“I focused on sessions pertaining to aging and comorbid conditions. I was excited to see more about comorbid conditions (NCD or non- communicable diseases) globally and how to integrate care for NCDs with HIV care in low resource settings. I also took away  that providers need to continue to recommend exercise or increased physical activity to people living with HIV to help manage comorbid conditions and even functional impairment.”

Diane Havlir, MD

Diane Havlir, MD

Diane Havlir, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco

“One of the exciting new frontiers in HIV treatment is in the area of novel ways to provide antiretroviral therapy or PrEP other than daily pills. There were new data on ‘long-acting’ HIV drugs that hold promise for prevention or treatment that could be administered via injection as infrequent as every two months.”


Hyman Scott

Hyman Scott, MD

Hyman Scott, MD, from the San Francisco Department of Public Health

“There were many exciting findings shared at CROI this year in the HIV prevention arena, notably two large PrEP vaginal ring studies showed moderate efficacy for HIV prevention.  Furthermore, the first case of Truvada PrEP failure, despite adequate drug levels, was reported with multiple class drug resistance.”

Shannon Weber, MSW

Shannon Weber, MSW

Shannon Weber, MSW, from Hive

“I loved seeing Al Liu and Brad Hare on the big screen, so proud to know them and their excellent work. My favorite presentation was Jim Pickett talking about Chicago’s collaborative effort to create the #PrEP4Love campaign with inclusive messaging promoting connection and intimacy. I enjoyed future-tripping over data from the studies about the vaginal ring, long acting injectables and newer agents for PrEP but left CROI grateful and lucky we already have a form of PrEP that works well for both vaginal and anal exposure.”

Want to find out more about HIV research presented at CROI 2016? Read more on BETA.


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