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HIV/AIDS from an Indian viewpoint

July 25, 2006 14:20 IST
Dr Suniti Solomon was the first to discover the AIDS virus in India in 1986.

She was in New York last week to speak on 'Frontline perspectives from India: Progress and challenges in combating the HIV/AIDS virus'.

Dr Solomon is founder-director of the Y R Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education, a premier HIV/AIDS care and support centre in Chennai.

Last year, she was the only Indian to appear in a prominent advertisement conceived and paid for by American fashion designer Kenneth Cole.

The campaign titled -- 'We All Have AIDS' brought together key leaders from entertainment, politics, society and science to highlight the devastating stigma associated with those living with HIV/AIDS.

'We All Have AIDS...If One Of Us Does,' exemplified a unified response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, asserting that if anyone had AIDS we all do, and if it exists anywhere it essentially exists everywhere.

The campaign featured Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Elton John, actors Tom Hanks, Ashley Judd, Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Alicia Keys, Will Smith, Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor and Olympic legend, diver Greg Louganis among others.

Dr Solomon, currently president, AIDS Society of India, is the Indian principal investigator of several pioneering HIV research studies like the US National Institute of Mental Health's multi-country HIV/STD Prevention Trial; the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' HIV Prevention Trial Networks. She is also a member on the board of AVAHAN, the India HIV/AIDS initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2002, when Ashok Pillai, then president of the Indian Network of Positive Persons, died for want of a ventillator, Dr Solomon decided to start an ICU exclusively for those suffering with HIV/AIDS in Chennai.

Image: writer and activist Meera Kamdar, Anil Monga, CEO, Victory International, Dr Suniti Solomon.

Photograph: Paresh Gandhi

rediff News Bureau