Last week, thousands of scientists, physicians and activists fighting the HIV and AIDS pandemic around the world gathered in Vienna to discuss the latest breakthroughs — and frustrations.

There were reports on several landmark studies describing the crucial role that treatments can play in reducing the infectiousness of HIV-positive individuals. And there was encouraging news from Africa, where a study found that an intra-vaginal anti-viral gel could reduce the risk of HIV infection among women who used it by 40%.

But there was also sobering news at the 18th International AIDS Conference, including stark evidence of how the HIV epidemic is raging unchecked among some populations of illicit drug users.

Vienna was selected to host the biannual meeting of HIV experts because it is the gateway to one of the world’s most rapidly growing HIV epidemics: that among heroin users in Eastern Europe. Outside sub-Saharan Africa, about 1 in 3 new HIV infections stems from injecting illegal drugs, and in some parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 70% of those who inject illicit drugs are infected with the virus.

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