TREAT Asia at a Glance
A Cooperative Approach to Expanding the Safe and Effective Delivery of HIV/AIDS Treatment in Asia and the Pacific
A Continent at Risk
In the late 1990s, little attention was being paid to the growing HIV/AIDS crisis in Asia. Orchestrating a high-level symposium at the United Nations in 2000, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, was among the first to warn that without concerted action, the most populous continent on earth could become fertile ground for an explosion of HIV/AIDS.
Across Asia and the Pacific today, almost five million people are living with HIV/AIDS, including 180,000 children, second only to sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, 380,000 people were newly infected with HIV, and AIDS claimed the lives of approximately 310,000.
The diversity of cultures and economies represented in Asia is reflected in the range of HIV/AIDS epidemics that span the region. In many areas, injection drug use is driving up rates of infection. And throughout the region, HIV is spreading among migrant workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and commercial sex workers and their clients.
In order to avoid escalating mortality rates, the need for a comprehensive response to the epidemic in Asia and the Pacific was clear. To be effective, the response required a significant scale-up of treatment and prevention programs, care, research, education, and training, as well as cooperation and partnership between the public and private sectors. Bringing to bear its experience in building a community-based clinical research network in the U.S., amfAR worked in consultation with physicians, researchers, and community groups across Asia and the Pacific to form a multinational network called TREAT Asia—Therapeutics Research, Education, and AIDS Training in Asia. The TREAT Asia Network was launched in 2001.
TREAT Asia: Toward a Comprehensive Response
Reductions in the prices of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV and the increasing availability of generic formulations have paved the way for expanded access to antiretroviral therapy across Asia and the Pacific. The experience of many countries has shown, however, that the complexities of AIDS drug regimens and their safe and effective administration requires ongoing education and training for patients and providers.
TREAT Asia is a cooperative network of clinics, hospitals, and research institutions working together with civil society to ensure the safe and effective delivery of these treatments. Now firmly established, it has become a model for regional collaboration on treatment preparedness, education, training, and clinical research.
The TREAT Asia Network now encompasses 23 adult and 21 pediatric clinical sites and HIV support programs across Asia and the Pacific. TREAT Asia has made significant contributions in numerous areas, including research reports on treatment outcomes in Asia; the creation of the first adult and pediatric HIV/AIDS observational databases in the region; the foundation of a pediatrics network to improve care and extend the lives of HIV-positive children; treatment education for both healthcare workers and people living with HIV/AIDS; and the publication of special reports on issues such as the rise of HIV among MSM in Asia..
The synergy between the education, community, and research components of TREAT Asia is producing benefits for the region in the areas of improved research infrastructure, technology transfer, government and private industry engagement in HIV/AIDS, and community involvement.
TREAT Asia: Goals and Objectives
As a regional initiative committed to building capacity, conducting research, and promoting safe and effective HIV treatment throughout Asia and the Pacific, TREAT Asia represents a unique approach to combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database is the first database to assess the natural history of HIV disease in treated and untreated patients in Asia. The database has become an invaluable tool in developing collaborative research studies that are responsive to the needs of patient populations in the region. In addition, the Network has established a pediatric database to study treatment and care issues. Another important research initiative—a drug resistance surveillance and monitoring network—was launched in 2005.
- Education and Training
TREAT Asia’s clinical sites are deeply involved in conducting research and clinical training activities. The Network also helps nurture a new generation of HIV/AIDS specialists through a series of educational programs aimed at building skills and enhancing research opportunities among early-career doctors and researchers. In addition, TREAT Asia conducts community-based treatment literacy programs for people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Community and Policy
TREAT Asia’s Community and Policy Program works with
amfAR's Public Policy Office on regional issues related to access to medicines,
support for harm reduction, and other HIV prevention and treatment priorities
for affected populations in the Asia-Pacific region. Strengthening the
policy component of TREAT Asia's community program will allow the network to
bridge gaps between the HIV research field and care and treatment policies.
TREAT Asia facilitates the dissemination of knowledge and expertise among participating sites, and shares information on HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific with a broader regional and a global audience. The Network’s primary communications vehicle, the TREAT Asia Report, reaches thousands of readers in the international health community.
- Strengthening Civil Society
A founding principle of TREAT Asia is that more effective delivery of antiretroviral treatment across Asia and the Pacific requires the active participation of civil society, including organizations representing people living with HIV/AIDS. TREAT Asia seeks to strengthen the understanding of treatment among Asia’s most affected communities, equipping them with the tools to empower and educate patients on local, national, and regional levels.
TREAT Asia: Activities and Accomplishments
- TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database
Amassing reliable data is crucial for understanding HIV/AIDS and for structuring effective treatment, prevention, and education programs. In 2003, TREAT Asia pioneered the region’s first observational database for HIV/AIDS, which now contains anonymous data collected from nearly 8,000 patients at 19 clinical sites. Information generated by the database is helping to define treatment standards specific to patient populations in Asia. In addition, in 2006, the program joined the U.S. NIH’s International Epidemiologic Databases to Evaluate AIDS, and TREAT Asia was selected to manage the Asia-Pacific region of this global database.
- Pediatrics Initiative
To help improve treatment for children in Asia, TREAT Asia launched a pediatrics initiative in 2005. The 22 sites in the network are collaborating on treatment and care issues and have established a pediatric HIV observational database, including outcomes data from 16 clinical sites with more than 4,500 children under care.
- Charting the Spread of Drug-Resistant HIV
Treatment failure and HIV drug resistance are critical threats to the long-term success of treatment scale-up efforts in Asia and Africa. In 2005, TREAT Asia launched a project aimed at building capacity for HIV drug resistance surveillance and monitoring in developing countries in Asia and Africa. This project includes developing capacity for regional laboratories to conduct quality-assured HIV resistance testing.
- Special Reports
TREAT Asia issues detailed reports illuminating key issues that influence HIV prevention and treatment in Asia. These reports have included papers detailing the alarming resurgence in HIV among MSM in Asia and delineating research priorities to improve HIV services for MSM in the region.