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Special module planned for ageing HIV patients

Teleconsultation service to be started

October 15, 2021 11:20 pm | Updated 11:20 pm IST - CHENNAI

The ongoing fifth phase of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) will have a special module to focus on ageing people living with HIV (PLHIV), said Alok Saxena, Director-General of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

Delivering a lecture as part of the Suniti Solomon memorial symposium organised virtually by Y.R. Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education (Y.R.G. CARE) on Thursday, Dr. Saxena said that India had a sizeable cohort of people living with HIV aged 50 and above due to the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART) that was making them live longer.

He said it was important to devise programmes to help this ageing population as they became prone to non-communicable diseases and other age-related illnesses. He said that NACP planned to commence teleconsultation for those affected with HIV based on the learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Saxena said that though he never had an opportunity to directly work with late Dr. Solomon, many of the models used by NACP were based on the pioneering work done by her and her team in Chennai.

Vaccine for HIV

Penny Moore, South African Research Chair of Virus-Host Dynamics, University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, said that there were several promising developments towards producing a vaccine for HIV.

She said that lessons from the development of COVID-19 vaccines in terms of the speed, collaboration, data sharing and international commitment from funders and scientists must be taken to make a vaccine for HIV, a reality in the near future.

Judith S. Currier, Professor of Medicine, Division Chief, Infectious Diseases, University of California, said while ART was a major advancement that saved and enhanced the lives of many, new drugs with different mechanisms of action, less frequent dosing and potentially less long-term complications were being developed. She stressed on the need for lifestyle modification in addition to ART to prevent chronic diseases.

Rajesh T. Gandhi, Professor of Medicine, Co-Director, Harvard University Centre for AIDS Research, who spoke on therapy for COVID-19, said there were many lessons that could be learnt from the approach of Dr. Suniti Solomon towards AIDS.

These included randomised trials, iterative process, tempering of pressure to deploy interventions by providing importance to finding out whether it worked or not and most importantly in ensuring equity in access to care.

Linda-Gail Bekker, Director, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa, said that while pandemics were political and politicised, science must guide all interventions and policies.

Highlighting Dr. Suniti Solomon’s commitment towards inclusion and stretching the health system to reach people who were hardly reached, Dr. Bekker said that innovations were of limited benefit if they could not be scaled.

Sunil Suhas Solomon, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chairman and managing director of Y.R.G. CARE, said that integrity, humility and passion were the values most cherished by his mother Dr. Suniti Solomon. He said that the best way to honour her legacy was through such symposiums that enabled sharing of knowledge.

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