TREAT Asia Network Expands Activities—Nineteen Countries Represented at Annual Meeting in Cambodia
October 2006—In the six years since it was established, the TREAT Asia network has experience a “quantum leap in activity,” according to steering committee member Dr. David A. Cooper at TREAT Asia’s 6th Annual Network Meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 14–16 July.
The meeting brought together about 100 participants from 19 countries representing TREAT Asia sites, nongovernmental organizations, and industry. Among those in attendance were representatives of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Stichting AIDS Fonds, and Pharm-Access Foundation.
The Network Meeting featured reports on a number of major grants and initiatives. Highlights included:
Pediatric Network—TREAT Asia Director Kevin Frost reported that planning for the network’s proposed pediatric program was actively moving forward. Financial support will come from Vienna’s Life Ball, the largest AIDS charity event in Europe, which has made the TREAT Asia pediatric program the beneficiary of 50 percent of its 2006 proceeds. The TREAT Asia steering committee announced that the next Network Meeting will be held jointly with the new pediatric network, and that representatives of that group will join the TREAT Asia steering committee.
International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IEDEA)—Frost announced that the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has selected TREAT Asia to join an international collaboration to study global trends in HIV/ AIDS through its IEDEA database. According to NIAID’s Dr. Carolyn Williams, who presented details of the new project, the database will include 400,000 patients around the globe, including 6,000 from 41 sites in Asia. This huge database, she explained, will make possible “analysis that can only be done with large data sets.” Under the direction of Dr. Cooper, who heads Australia’s National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of New South Wales, TREAT Asia will manage the Asia/Pacific section of the database.
TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database (TAHOD)—TAHOD currently collects data from nearly 3,000 patients at 16 sites across Asia. During the Network Meeting, representatives from those sites gathered to discuss the current direction of their research, paying particular attention to TAHOD’s new relationship with IEDEA. According to Dr. Sanjay Pujari of the Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune, India, three TAHOD papers were to be presented at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto and two others had been developed in draft form.
TREAT Asia Studies to Evaluate Resistance (TASER)—TREAT Asia’s new HIV drug resistance surveillance and monitoring program, known as TASER, was formally launched at a two-day workshop immediately following the Network Meeting.
Participants discussed a wide range of protocol issues that TASER sites will face as the program ramps up, particularly how to achieve the goal of enrolling 80 recently infected individuals per site.
TREAT Asia Quality Assurance Scheme (TAQAS)—With the goal of standardizing the performance of labs involved with TASER, TREAT Asia has established a program to monitor these labs for the accuracy and consistency of their results. TAQAS’s first lab workshop was held in Bangkok on 12 July, during which representatives from ten participating sites reviewed results from an initial round of HIV genotypic drug resistance tests. According to Dr. Phillip Cunningham of the National Centre, the labs performed well. Two rounds of quality assurance tests will be performed each year.
Asian Community for AIDS Treatment and Advocacy (ACATA)—Gathering in Siem Reap the day before the Network Meeting, ACATA members prepared for the International AIDS Conference, where they were to present a workshop on treatment education for low literacy patients. In addition, amfAR’s director of clinical research, Jeffery Smith, led the group in a discussion of how to read an HIV/AIDS research paper in order to heighten their understanding of the scientific literature they encounter. The next day the 12 young advocates attended a roundtable lunch with Dr. Rossana Ditangco of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila, Philippines, focusing on TB co-infection in HIV-positive patients.
Steering Committee—Steering Committee Chair Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman announced a number of plans agreed upon by the committee, including its interest in moving toward conducting randomized clinical trials. She also announced plans to offer a TREAT Asia-sponsored clinical symposium for local medical and community members during the next Network Meeting.
Additional presentations were made by Dr. Mervyn F. Silverman, chair of amfAR’s global initiatives committee, who welcomed participants to the meeting; Dr. Pujari, who discussed the results of the HIVeDUCATION Pilot Program; Dr. Kaoeun Chetra, who presented an update on the Cambodian National Physician HIV Training; Dr. Donald Sutherland of WHO, who discussed the 3 by 5 Initiative; and Dr. Raphael Hamers of the PharmAccess Foundation, who described the drug resistance and monitoring work the organization is doing in Africa.