Major AIDS Conference returns to Bay Area After 30 Years

UCSF HIV Doctor Will Co-Chair Meeting, Which Attracts 15,000 From Around the World

By Larkin Callaghan

Monica Gandhi outside Ward 86, in San Francisco.
Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, co-chair of the 23rd International AIDS conference. Credit: Stephan Babuljak.

The 23rd International AIDS conference, AIDS2020, is returning to the Bay Area for the first time in 30 years, with leadership from renowned UC San Francisco physician-scientists and the International AIDS Society. The meeting attracts 15,000 or more people from around the world and will be held in July of 2020, both in San Francisco and Oakland. 

The San Francisco co-chair will be Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, UCSF professor of medicine in the Division of HIV, Infectious Disease, and Global Medicine and Medical Director of Ward 86, which played a historic role in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, at UCSF partner hospital Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. The Oakland co-chair will be Cynthia Carey-Grant, former executive director of WORLD, an Oakland-based agency serving women with HIV/AIDS. Anton Pozniak, MD, president of the International AIDS Society, is the third co-chair.

“Dr. Gandhi is uniquely qualified to serve in this role,” said Diane Havlir, MD, UCSF professor of medicine and Chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Disease, and Global Medicine at ZSFG. “As a renowned clinician, brilliant researcher, and passionate educator, she is making huge strides to end the epidemic. She is a pillar of the HIV community in the Bay Area and beyond.”

The three co-chairs will lead the meeting’s conference coordinating committee, which includes 27 global leaders from scientific institutions, civil society organizations, and community-based advocacy groups.

“I am honored to help lead the planning efforts for AIDS2020, a landmark conference allowing us to showcase the advancements in global HIV and highlight the work of our local communities in Oakland and San Francisco,” Gandhi said.

San Francisco has made great strides eliminating new infections in recent years, with a record low number of 221 new diagnoses in 2017.

“UCSF physician-scientists have been at the forefront in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic since it appeared in humans in the early 1980s, and remain deeply committed to helping people around the world, by improving clinical care, advancing our understanding of the basic science, and contributing to national and international AIDS policy,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “We are proud of the leadership our faculty have shown in these historic conferences.”

The 6th International AIDS Conference was last hosted by San Francisco in 1990, when Paul Volberding, MD, professor of medicine at UCSF, and the co-founder of Ward 86, served as president of the International AIDS Society, and UCSF’s current Chair of the Department of Medicine, Robert Wachter, MD, served as conference program director. Havlir later served as co-chair of the 19th conference, which was held in Washington, D.C.

“To bring the conference back to the Bay Area after 30 years is an incredible opportunity to showcase the achievements that have been made in getting more people tested for HIV, more people on treatment, and more people virally suppressed – areas in which UCSF, the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and our community partners have led the way,” Volberding said.

The conference returns at a time of global significance. The United Nations has set an ambitious 2020 goal, known as “90-90-90,” to ensure that 90 percent of those living with HIV are aware of their status, 90 percent of those who know they are HIV-positive receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of those on therapy are virally suppressed. 

The HIV/AIDS work done at UCSF has influenced national and international policy, said Eric Goosby, MD, professor of medicine at UCSF, who helped lead HIV/AIDS policy under U.S. presidents, first as the founding director of the Ryan White Care Act (RWCA) under Bill Clinton and then as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, implementing the President’s Emergency Care for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under Barack Obama. 

“UCSF played an integral role in creating the model for the Ryan White Care Act, which went on to serve as the basis of PEPFAR,” Goosby said. “Both programs have achieved extraordinary success, with RWCA providing care to half a million people each year in 52 epicenter cities, and PEPFAR having treated 15 million people since 2013.” 

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals – UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – as well as Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians and the UCSF Faculty Practice. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. UCSF faculty also provide all physician care at the public Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and the SF VA Medical Center. The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a major branch of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.