A remarkably good turn-out given it was the morning after the night before! I won’t dwell on the gala dinner at Manchester Cathedral, although I should say how absolutely beautiful the cathedral looked, with a sea of candles illuminating the gothic structure and its vaulted ceiling. I must admit though, that it was slightly surreal to be feasting and frolicking in a place of worship –especially as the air was heavy with incense!
As James Bingham had given the Harrison Lecture on Tuesday evening, there was a change to the advertised programme with Professor Andrew Lever (University of Cambridge) kindly stepping in to give this morning’s invited lecture, titled ‘Getting intimate with HIV: the virus in the cell’.
The conference’s last oral research presentation session addressed innovation and maintaining quality in clinical practice. There was a welcome acknowledgement in several of these presentations of a need for economic evaluation with a view to reducing costs but not at the expense of offering a quality service. Equally important, and addressed by Dr Jenny Whetham in her presentation on the role of email consultation in the clinical care of stable HIV-infected patients, was the need to take account of the patient perspective.
Just before lunch, there were the oral research poster presentations session in which the authors of the six best posters had three minutes each to present. I do not envy the job of judging the 302 posters that have been presented at this year’s conference. As the chairs (Professor Jane Anderson and Dr Elizabeth Carlin) commented they had been spoilt for choice in selecting the winning six, in fact, a further 26 posters were awarded special commendations.
The winning six posters covered a range of topics and were (in numerical order): Poster P98, in which Kober et al recommended that it may not be necessary to undertake routine monitoring for toxicity during PEP -unless there are other concerns (developing signs/symptoms of toxicity, significant co-morbidity, or the potential for drug interactions.) Vanessa Apea presented poster P136 which was a case report of a voltage-gated potassium channel antibody-related limbic encephalitis in a HIV-positive female with dialysis-dependent renal failure. Two of the award-winning posters focused on HIV in children: P144 (Williams et al –who won the award for best poster) looked at the pregnancy outcomes in women growing-up with HIV acquired perinatally/in early childhood, while P156 (Whitfield et al) addressed the need to test the children of HIV-positive patients. Rayment et al’s poster (P255) reported an e-learning tool that Chelsea and Westminster Hospital have developed to train their junior doctors in GUM/HIV, which has proven to both release staff time and be popular with junior doctors (In hindsight I should have asked how this fits with the Department of Health’s Electronic training for Healthcare programme (www.e-lfh.org.uk/) for which there was a stand in the main hall….) Finally, poster P278 looked at the rising costs over the period 1997-2007, for both the population and per patient, of the NHS treating HIV patients, and the need to reduce costs without reducing the quality of services –again broaching the thorny subject of the NHS having finite resources, with implications for how we best manage these resources.
In the closing session, it was the BHIVA/BASHH Oscars –although without the acceptance speeches! I won’t go through all the prizes awarded but I should note that the award for best oral presentation went to Derval Harte for her presentation on a study that looked at recalling MSM diagnosed with bacterial STIs for retesting, in which she concluded that the strategy was both feasible and, given the high rates of STIs and HIV among returning men, is likely to be effective for reducing onward transmission.
These are just some of my highlights of this the last day of the second joint meeting between BHIVA and BASHH, so as I wait on the concourse at Manchester Piccadilly for the train home with what feels like the majority of delegates, I wonder what they’ll remember about this meeting –other than it being the ‘volcano conference’!”