The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to snuff out human lives from all age groups. Young healthcare scientists and social researchers in India have to be encouraged and urged to take up research work related to HIV/AIDS
. Only furthering our knowledge on the subject can help contain this disease that affects an estimated 5.2 million people and prevent fresh infections, was the theme of the HIV / AIDS Conference in Chennai, India
. The two day science symposium on HIV/AIDS 'HIV Science 2010'
that concluded on August 31 at Taramani, Chennai, focused on identifying key areas of research in HIV/AIDS and encouraging collective efforts in the fight against the rising HIV epidemic in India.
Organized by the non governmental organization YRG CARE, the symposium saw scientific sessions that included paper presentations, stimulating discussions and a poster competition that was interspersed between the proceedings on both days.
Inaugurating HIV Science 2010
The inaugural function had eminent persons from different parts of India sharing their view on effective ways to address the ignominy of India's ranking in the world as home to the second largest population of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). Keynote speaker Dr. R.S. Paranjape, Director, National AIDS Research Institute (NARI), ICMR, Pune stressed the need for ethical practice in the treatment of HIV infection, given the nature of the social stigma attached to the AIDS disease in India. Calling for research in the community and in the clinical field, he said efforts must be made to develop indigenous vaccines and that can only happen when "a critical mass of research in India is steadily built up."
Dr. Rajat Goyal, Country Director, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, New Delhi emphasized that more investment should be earmarked for AIDS and the money must be spent wisely to check the spread of HIV infection and prevent fresh infections. Shambhu Kallolikar IAS, Project Director, Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, said collaborative research would give the right direction which HIV control and prevention should take in India.
Dr. Suniti Solomon, Founder Director, YRG CARE said, the scientific forum convened to address key scientific issues and gaps in knowledge would be an opportunity to identify priorities for future action that would hopefully be initiated by the eminent microbiologists, venereologists, biotechnologists, budding researchers and science students from colleges and research institutions who were participants of HIV Science 2010.
Stimulating Scientific Sessions
Both days had eminent doctors presenting papers and discussing topics such as Understanding HIV Pathogenesis and Recent Trends, HIV testingPre and Post Counseling, Lessons to learn from HIV Vaccine Failure, Challenges in HIV Preventive Vaccine Development, Biomedical Options for HIV Prevention, Drug Resistance in HIV and its Current Status among Treated and Untreated patients, Co infection: HIV and Filaria, Co infection: HIV and TB, Immunogenetic Basis of HIV-1 Infection, and Transmission and Disease Progression, to mention a few.
Tracing the natural history of HIV in South India and discussing the co-factors relating to progression of patients with HIV/AIDS, Dr. N. Kumarasamy, Chief Medical Officer, YRG CARE said, though anti retroviral drugs approved by US FDA prevented death in AIDS patients, the drugs caused a lot of damage in the long run and triggered cardiovascular diseases, renal failure, bone problems, diabetes, HCV and a host of other non AIDS causes of mortality in AIDS patients. Dr. N. Usman, Professor of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), SRMU, showed slides of the various infections related to HIV and discussed their prevalence and available treatment in India.
Speaking on testing guidelines in adults and children in HIV diagnosis, Dr. Thara Francis, HOD, Dept of Microbiology, Frontier Hospital, Chennai, stressed on remembering the "Window Period" whenever making tests for HIV. Window period indicates the lag period between infection and the appearance of measurable antibodies and this is a stage when the patient is highly infectious. Dr. Thara discussed Indirect and Direct testing and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Rapid Tests. She also mentioned that "HIV makes good business on the commercial side and there are substandard kits with poor quality and performance" that can seriously hamper testing and provide false results.
YRG CARE is a premier HIV/AIDS service organization offering a host of services including adolescent sexuality education, HIV interventions at workplaces and communities, training physicians, lab scientists, health educators, counselors and nurses. The NGO is also involved in HIV research and currently partners with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in a phase I HIV vaccine trial.