HTB: no. 3 – plus HIV and COVID-19 (12 March 2021)

This issue of HTB includes news on the unexpected death of the influential HIV scientist and educator Dr Charles Boucher that will have shocked many readers. We include two tributes in appreciation of his work.

We also include first reports from virtual CROI 2021, which for many people is a marker for the anniversary for COVID-19.

Appropriately, the excellent programme this year included many studies related to COVID-19, perhaps a factor in more that a quarter of presentations. This included the urgency of global access to vaccines, which was the focus of the opening presentation. This talk also lead to a global sign-on for universal access.

Other news in this rapid issue included first reports on pipeline HIV drugs and results from the NADIA study. We also include one of the plenary lectures that changes the consensus understanding of the HIV viral life cycle using electomicroscopy videos to show HIV capsid passing intact into the CD4 nucleus. These fascinating videos should be seen by all.

But this is difficult, because we also report that wider access to studies presented at the conference, are not going to be open access. As a late concession, the abstract book, is now available online, but this was, at least in part, in response to a community letter challenging the proposal for all conference material to remain behind a pay wall for non-delegates.

Until this year, CROI has been the best example of ensuring broad access to the latest research, with webcasts from all presentations available on open access as soon as the meeting ends.

CROI should actually be proud of its role in generating community demand for broad access to such important cutting-edge research – including from many who have no formal scientific background.

Hopefully, the decision to block access this year will be reconsidered given the educational aims of this meeting, perhaps in memory of Dr Boucher, who I think would have approved.