amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

TREAT Asia Explores Treatment, Research, and Prevention at International AIDS Conference


October 2006—The XVI International AIDS Conference brought close to 30,000 delegates to Toronto, Canada, 13-18 August, making it the largest AIDS meeting ever held. Featuring appearances by Bill Gates, President Bill Clinton, and Richard Gere, all major supporters of prevention and treatment projects in Asia, the conference offered a vast international forum for discussing the future of the fight against AIDS.

Ashok Row Kavi of the Humsafar Trust in India spoke at a TREAT Asia sponsored symposium in Toronto addressing HIV prevention among men who have sex with men.
(Photo: Craig Boyko)

TREAT Asia staff and participants were actively involved in the Toronto conference through a broad range of network-sponsored events. Following the opening plenary, which featured a keynote speech by Frika Chia Iskander of TREAT Asia’s Asian Community for AIDS Treatment and Advocacy (ACATA), network-related activities included:

Treatment Education and Health Literacy
Innovative Approaches to Treatment Education for Patients With Low Literacy in Asia: Lessons Learned From ACATA was a skills-building workshop that grew out of a recognition that treatment education is key to promoting adherence to HIV/AIDS drug regimens. Working in small groups, ACATA leaders demonstrated techniques that they have developed to explain complex treatment information to patients with low literacy, including games played with wooden blocks, toys such as soldiers and animals, and illustrated flipcharts.

The workshop, facilitated by Ayi Farida of Indonesia and Duong Truong Thuy of Vietnam, and assisted by Thomas Cai of China, included an active exchange of ideas between audience members from around the globe. “Within our programs in Africa we have been struggling to come up with innovative methodologies that target lower-level health-care workers,” said Dr. Lloyd Matowe, training coordinator for the US-based Management Sciences for Health, who attended the session. “I found the training approaches that were presented practical, stimulating, inexpensive, and potentially valid and reliable across societies.”

TREAT Asia program manager Jennifer Ho participated in a symposium called Developing Health Literacy in Resource-Limited Settings. She spoke about her experience developing treatment education materials for a project in China that serves marginalized populations with very low literacy. In this setting, she asked, “How can you explain the concept of the human immune system and CD4 counts? The materials needed to be pictorially based, fun, and relevant to their life experience.” Since Ho’s project deals mostly with farmers, one of the visuals she presented showed a healthy plot of land contrasted with the same plot as it deteriorates and the crops rot—an illustration of what happens to the HIV-infected body without appropriate treatment.

Promoting PHA Leadership
A panel discussion entitled Promoting Leadership Among PHAs in Asian Communities explored ways of enhancing the leadership roles of positive people. From ACATA, Jeanne d’Arc Truong of Vietnam spoke of increasing the involvement of women in PHA leadership, and Baju Odon Pradjanto of Indonesia described the experiences that led him to become a leader in his community.

Prevention Among MSM
Following up on the MSM report released by TREAT Asia immediately before the AIDS conference, amfAR sponsored a satellite symposium entitled HIV Prevention Among Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)

Ayi Farida
Ayi Farida prepared for ACATA's workshop on treatment education for low-literacy communities by demonstrating how wooden blocks can be used to explain the weakening of the immune system.
(Photo: Dredge Kang)

TREAT Asia director Kevin Frost moderated the panel, which stressed the importance of viewing the behavior of MSM within relevant cultural contexts. As a group, MSM are not easily categorized, speakers agreed, and for this reason no single intervention model could ever work. “We really need to tailor different interventions,” said Grant Colfax of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “One size is not going to fit all.”

Research Presentations
Recent research from the TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database (TAHOD) was presented in Toronto. Yi-Ming (Arthur) Chen, M.D., of the National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan, discussed a paper on hepatitis B and C virus coinfection among patients with HIV. Two posters were also exhibited, one examining factors associated with tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and the prognostic significance of TB in overall survival. The second explored the difference between Asian and Caucasian HIV-infected patients in absolute CD4 count and CD4 percentage.