On Wednesday, July 25, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases co-chaired a panel at the 2012 International AIDS Conference, addressing the link between NTDs and HIV/AIDS. The session, entitled “Effective Solutions to Combat HIV: Increasing Evidence of the Impact of Neglected Tropical Diseases on HIV Transmission and Disease Progression,” was well-attended by researchers and other conference delegates.
Dr. Neeraj Mistry, Managing Director of the Global Network, was delighted to share the stage with a distinguished selection of panelists, including:
- Dr. Christoph Benn, Director for the External Relations and Partnerships Cluster for the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
- Dr. Lee Hall, Chief of the Parasitology and International Programs Branch, National Institute for AIDS and Infectious Diseases
- Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu, Director of MRC/UNRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS
- Dr. Astrid-Christina Koch, Science Counsellor at the Delegation of the European Union to the United States, Dr. Lee Hall, Chief of the Parasitology and International Programs
- Dr. Hiro Nakatani, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization
- Dr. Guiseppe Pantaleo, Chief of the Division of Immunology and Allergy at University of Lausanne
- Dr. Maria Aparecida Shikanai-Yasuda, Faculty of Medicine at University of Sao Paulo
During the workshop, members of the panel presented current research that has been conducted in Uganda and Brazil suggesting pathogenic links between NTDs such as schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis and HIV transmission and disease progression. Nearly all of the speakers addressed the potential impact NTD control could have on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and strongly emphasized the need for further research.
The speakers also called for more integrated treatment programs that combine NTD and HIV/AIDS efforts. According to Dr. Nakatani, NTDs and HIV have significant geographic overlap, and as a result NTD control and HIV education and treatment could work together through school-based programming and maternal and child health initiatives. Dr. Benn even suggested that the total cost of HIV/AIDS programs worldwide could be smaller overall if NTDs are included in HIV/AIDS advocacy.
“Integrated approaches for treating both HIV/AIDS and NTDs need to happen now,” says Dr. Mistry. “It took almost 10 years for the AIDS community to accept the link between circumcision and HIV transmission, and we don’t have that kind of time or resources to waste. Some NTDs have strong associations of increasing the likelihood of contracting HIV, while others accelerate the disease’s progression. By working together, the NTD and HIV/AIDS communities can enhance the impact of programs, work more efficiently, and build better lives for at-risk communities around the world.”