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An Open Letter from the AIDS2020 Conference Coordinating Committee, Feat. Dr. Monica Gandhi

An open letter from your AIDS 2020 Conference Coordinating Committee

October 24, 2018: We are proud of the communities we are – people living with HIV; men who have sex with men, transgender people, and other LGBTQI people; racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous people, immigrants and refugees; sex workers and people who inject drugs. We are scientists, clinicians and community advocates. We represent an international community, a United States and other countries around the globe that are resisting divisive politics and united in this historic and collective fight to end the HIV epidemic. Within the United States, we represent Oakland, San Francisco, southern states and major cities across the nation. In this capacity, we are honoured to assume the responsibility as the leadership body of the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020) and take on the role of the Conference Coordinating Committee (CCC).

In just under two years, our HIV community will gather in Oakland and San Francisco for AIDS 2020 which comes at a critical moment in the global fight against HIV. Moreover, this conference is occurring at a critical point in the history of the host country, the United States. Never has it been more important to make our collective voices heard.

With great challenge comes great opportunity. We know from experience that the conference has the power to unite diverse voices to confront harmful policies and draw international attention and resources to ending the epidemic. We came together in Vancouver in 1996 to usher in the HAART era. We came together in 2000 to face AIDS denialism in South Africa. Now, the selection of the US is giving us the opportunity to stand up and seize this moment – and leverage this powerful platform – as a united community and to drive meaningful change.

We had broad community support from organizations and persons living with HIV in San Francisco and Oakland to hold the meeting in the Bay Area. Moreover, key political leaders in California all committed their support to AIDS 2020. We believe in this opportunity so much that we are committing our time over the next two years to fulfill important roles within the AIDS 2020 CCC and to make this committee one that is responsive to the needs of all people living with and at-risk for HIV.

In assuming our roles on the CCC, we commit to planning an impactful AIDS 2020 agenda that allows us to celebrate and learn from our successes while constantly pushing for advances in science, programmes and policy. Over the coming months, we will be seeking your input, and working closely with the International AIDS Society and partners to ensure that the conference is as accessible as possible to all who wish to attend. We are committed to a global gathering that gives a voice to all communities, shares solutions, and advances the conversation to end this epidemic.

We are excited to head to the Bay Area of California, a part of the world deeply entwined with the history of the global AIDS response – an international hub of both activism and science. The Bay Area has been at the forefront of advances from basic science to treatment and prevention breakthroughs and has been at the frontlines of advocacy, fighting back against unacceptable policies. Through the unique partnership of Oakland and San Francisco we can show two sides of the same coin—the successes that San Francisco has had and the struggles that Oakland is still facing.

Every host city or country comes with its own immigration challenges and we recognize the specific challenges we will face in the US. However, strong political commitment is the backbone of a meaningful and impactful conference. It was the unparalleled political leadership demonstrated by the State of California that helped secure the bid. California, and Oakland and San Francisco in particular, have a long history of resisting unjust policies, including immigration reform and refugee quotas.

With the selection of the Bay Area for AIDS 2020, we have the chance to elevate US and global HIV concerns on to the national and international stage. That includes shining a spotlight on and working to reform unjust policies that restrict entry into the US and other countries and perpetuate a climate of stigma and fear. This is a rare moment to put HIV and those most affected, including people of colour, minorities and the economically disadvantaged, at the centre of political discussion. It won’t be easy, but we will rise to the challenge and work together – as we always have – on fighting prejudice, racism, sexism and isolationism wherever it happens

While we recognize that we take different approaches to achieve the same goal, what has fundamentally made our community strong was the mutual underlying respect for one another. We are all fighting the same fight against HIV and we look forward to joining forces as the AIDS 2020 CCC to do this together.

Sincerely,

The AIDS 2020 Co-chairs,

Anton Pozniak, International Chair, Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust; United Kingdom

Cynthia Carey-Grant, Local Co-chair, Oakland, formerly Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases; United States

Monica Gandhi, Local Co-chair, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco; United States

Signed by your AIDS 2020 CCC members

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In Memorium: Teri Liegler, PhD

October 10, 2018

As those in our HIV community mourn the passing of our dear colleague, Teri Liegler, PhD, professor in the Division of HIV, ID and Global Medicine, we wanted to share information about services being offered and the memories that many have of Dr. Liegler.

A memorial will be held at Beach Elementary School, 100 Lake Ave, Piedmont, CA 94611, on Sunday, October 28, from 12 – 2pm. Dr. Liegler and her family requested that any donations made are in support of emerging investigators, both faculty and staff, as they develop their careers. Please note “in memory of Teri Liegler,” when making any donations.

Dr. Liegler battled glioblastoma for the last year and a half in a way that was uniquely Teri – with insight, forthrightness, and an unwavering dedication to her work, family, colleagues, and the field of HIV. The Director of the Laboratory of Clinical Virology based at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital for many years, researchers and their work flourished under her guidance. A member of the AIDS Research Institute Executive Committee, she helped shape the trajectory of HIV priority areas at the University, and guided considerations that would most positively impact the HIV community of UCSF. Universally, the professional memories of Teri’s colleagues are intimately woven with warm personal reflections.

A compassionate clinician educator, Teri was motivated to fight the HIV epidemic in San Francisco in the late 1980s. She signed on as a post-doctoral fellow at the Gladstone Institute under Warner Greene, studying the pathogenesis of the virus.

“Teri was truly committed to helping to end the AIDS pandemic. She never lost sight of that goal, always bringing great commitment and energy to her work,” remembers Dr. Greene.

Teri emerged as a national leader in virology and laboratory science, and worked closely with investigators at partner facilities like the Blood Systems Research Institute, ushering in generations of investigators. “When I arrived at UCSF in 2004, Teri was friendly and welcoming, standing out even among the congenial UCSF crowd [with her] dedication to making UCSF and the world a better place,” said Dr. Philip Norris.

The breadth of her research and her appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of HIV made her notorious among clinicians as well.

“I worked with Teri for many years, starting in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. She was gracious, kind, wicked-smart, hard-working, and a total inspiration. I am going to miss her so, so much,” says Ward 86 Medical Director, Dr. Monica Gandhi.

Her impressive portfolio prompted her appointment as Director of the UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research Core Virology Core, where she pioneered methods for detection of HIV and drug resistance. She was a lead investigator on iPrEx, the groundbreaking study that revealed treating HIV-negative persons prophylactically (PrEP) was effective and safe in humans, leading to dramatic reductions in HIV incidence. This deepened her friendship with iPrEx study lead Dr. Robert Grant, who worked with her closely from the labs of San Francisco to the field in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Over our 20 years of work together, my favorite day with Teri was playing golf in Nigeria – against all odds, she was up for an adventure and hopeful for a hole in one,” remembers Grant. “She had singular integrity, passion, and devotion to science that could end HIV transmission and disease. She lit up ways forward for me and so many others. I will miss her for the rest of my life. If ever I face a hard choice at the intersection of heart and mind, I'll ask myself, ‘what would Teri do?’”

Teri played a critical role in UCSF-led studies of HIV cure, test and treat initiatives, and surveillance projects. She was also the virologist for the SEARCH study in Uganda and Kenya, studying antiretroviral therapy for HIV elimination delivered through a community health approach.

“Teri was a shining star in our division,” says Dr. Diane Havlir, Chief of the Division of HIV, ID, and Global Medicine. “Her passion for science and her dedication to helping the careers of young scientists was unsurpassed. She was a beloved member of our international team and our colleagues there sent many loving messages during her final days.”

Invested in gender equity and advancing the careers of women in science since her arrival at UCSF, Teri was a powerful advocate, as Dr. Steve Deeks recalls.

“My earliest memory of Teri was a discussion we had about women in academia. This was in the mid-1990s, long before it became a popular issue. She was passionate about this and many other issues, and very effective working behind the scenes to help numerous women – both faculty and staff – thrive at UCSF. She did all of this quietly and with amazing grace. She will be very much missed,” he said.

A common thread amongst those who worked with Teri was the admiration for how she mentored and molded emerging investigators and physicians. She trained hundreds of laboratory investigators from around the world in virologic methods, leaving a global influence that cannot be understated. Her mentoring was not limited to junior scientists.

“I [knew] Teri for 20 years, and frequently reached out to her for information, guidance and collaborations. She was always forthcoming with knowledge, insights, advice and data. Her integrity and work ethic were an example to me and the many others, particularly the many young scientists she mentored,” said Dr. Mike Busch.

Teri connected meaningfully with trainees and colleagues outside of the lab as well, even in the midst of her cancer treatment, showcasing her selfless and generous spirit.

“There are so many ways in which Teri impacted my career at UCSF and my life,” says Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen, who worked with her as a pre-doctoral lab specialist, then a trainee, mentee, and finally colleague; though he most fondly remembers a recent event. "In March of 2017, I left UCSF. Not very long after, Teri was diagnosed with her tumor and I came back to see her in January 2018. I was amazed by how she was courageously fighting cancer and remaining [fully engaged in her work]. We managed to have dinner together, and she asked me if my young daughter had ever read Charlotte's Web. I replied no, and a few weeks later, I received a box full of books for my daughter – including Charlotte’s Web. Despite all she was going through, that I can only imagine, she was caring enough to send me these. [That was] just Teri.”

Her warmth was indeed unforgettable. “Teri Liegler was an accomplished scientist, a treasured colleague, and a close personal friend. I knew Teri through our daughters – best friends since pre-school – long before I worked with her at UCSF. She was a second mother to my youngest daughter and a second daughter to my mother-in-law, who adored her. We all will miss her spark, her love of her family, and her wonderful friendship,” says Dr. George Rutherford.

We mourn Teri’s passing, but celebrate and honor her remarkable life. Her inspiring legacy, impressive scholarship, and selfless nature will be forever remembered.

We encourage you to read the Department of Medicine announcement regarding Teri's passing.

 

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Dr. Monica Gandhi Named as San Francisco Based Co-Chair for AIDS2020

October 2, 2018

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 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 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS 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.”

Learn more about the AIDS 2020 co-chairs.

 

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San Francisco and Oakland Partner to Host AIDS 2020

March 13, 2018

We are thrilled to share that just announced by the International AIDS Society (IAS) this morning, in July 2020, San Francisco and Oakland, California, USA are partnering to host the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020), returning the world’s largest HIV conference to the Bay Area 30 years after the region emerged as an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. A proud moment for our city and country, and we are honored to support this selection.

Led by San Francisco AIDS Foundation and San Francisco Travel, the host city bid committee included the Oakland Mayor’s Office, San Francisco Department of Public Health, Alameda County Public Health Department, and the University of California, San Francisco.

As Anton Pozniak, AIDS 2020 International Chair says, “The partnership of San Francisco and Oakland hosting AIDS 2020 serves as an apt metaphor for the global effort to end HIV - working together, across political and social divides to achieve our goal of ending this pandemic.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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“San Francisco will never forget the severity and magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—we lost our friends, family members and neighbors,” said San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell in a San Francisco AIDS Foundation press release. “Our own San Francisco General Hospital was the first hospital in the country to open its doors to people living with AIDS and we have been fighting the epidemic ever since.”

It is a true privilege to work with these partners in welcoming our colleagues from around the world to the Bay Area.

Please read the full IAS press release to learn more.

The story of AIDS 2020 can be found at www.aids2020.org, which describes the historic and current epidemiological profiles of both cities, as well as the bid process and the reasons for the San Francisco-Oakland selection.

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