6th ASICON – Mumbai-India, 13-15 December 2013

The 6th National Conference of AIDS Society of India (ASICON) has been held December 13th through 15th at the Palladium Hotel (former Shangri-La Hotel), a luxurious hotel located in the heart of the city, within the residential and corporate hub of Lower Parel, above the Palladium, Mumbai’s most luxurious mall.

The Conference, with contribution of 14 International and 58 national speakers articulated in 24 plenary sessions, discussion forums, workshops, abstract & poster sessions.

ASICON 2013 has been a unique opportunity for scientific update and a quality gathering of HIV care givers and scientists. Presentations and the following discussions will likely contribute to enhance the quality of HIV care and prioritize research issues in India, in particular to review and reflect upon emerging newer approaches in care with ‘Scaling New Heights – From Prevention & Treatment…Towards Cure’. The last decade has witnessed astounding evolution of ART- from treatment of few to ‘Treatment as Prevention’ – TasP and now to ‘Test and Treat’. ASICON is contributing to transfer worldwide research on vaccines and cure to practicing HIV physicians and young researchers.

While the government, pharmaceuticals and NGOs are making intense efforts to enhance access to care, ASI is duty-bound to strengthen its quality implementation through scientific update from time to time. By partnering with the Forum of Parliamentarians on HIV/AIDS, ASI has taken the initiative to influence policy makers and planners on the needs and aspirations of PLHIV as also on the role of HIV physicians.

Moreover ASI has taken a lead to enthuse young doctors and researchers. Besides the CMEs activities conducted throughout the year from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and from Ahmedabad to Shillong, intense training workshops have been conducted at ASICON 2013, followed by hands-on training in United Kingdom.

The Program of the meeting is available at the Conference web-page and has been focused on several aspects of HIV/AIDS epidemic in India, including AIDS-associated malignancies.

A very special event has been the participation at the inauguration on December 13th of the Tanzania Minister of Health, to further link African and Indian Countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The relevance of the Tanzania is also due to the fact that it was the first African country to host the International Conference on AIDS and Associated Cancers in Africa at the Arusha International Conference Center (September 14-16, 1988), which would have become the very successful ICASA Meeting.

The following is a transcript of the speech given by H.E. Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi, Tanzania’s Minister of Health.

President of AIDS Society of India, Dr I.S. Gilada. Distinguished participants. Ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honor and a privilege for me to be given this opportunity to officiate in the inauguration ceremony of the AIDS Society of India Conference.

First of all allow me to convey my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the organizers for inviting me to participate in this very important conference.

Africa and India have enjoyed a close and friendly relation for a long time, driven largely by the shared ideological commitment of anti-colonialism and a genuine desire for South-South cooperation.

Health is recognized as an essential component of human development. Therefore access to essential medicines is also acknowledged as a basic human right.

It is for this reason that I want to commend and congratulate the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry for making available good quality generic medicines at affordable price. Otherwise a large number of the population in Africa would not have been able to access essentials medicines particularly antiretroviral drugs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Communicable Diseases, including HIV /AIDS, still contribute the biggest burden of Disease in Africa. The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Tanzania for example is 5.1% down from 10% of 5 years ago. This decrease in prevalence is mainly due to preventive interventions including the use of generic Antiretroviral therapy as a preventive measure.

The role of Indian Pharmaceutical Companies in improving access to affordable, safe and efficacious Antiretroviral medicines of good quality cannot be overemphasized.

This conference is being held at a time when over 150 Indian Pharmaceutical Manufactures have their products registered in Africa after having met both legal and regulatory requirements. I am also aware that several Indian generic manufacturers have their products WHO prequalified especially antiretrovirals, antimalarials and TB medicines.

Thanks to these affordable generic medicines from India, the Global Fund to fight Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis has made them accessible to many Africans and has enabled governments in Africa to scale up their use.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The WHO target of zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero death due to AIDS is now achievable, thanks to the availability of affordable generic antiretroviral medicines. We have seen the cost of these medicines going down from about 20,000 USD/month to as low as 30-100 USD/month. Likewise we have seen the number of drugs per dose degrease from around 18 tablets to one tablet per day. This has made it possible to scale up coverage and has encouraged adherence to therapy.

African Governments will continue to work closely with all stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS including Development partners (bilateral and multilateral donors), pharmaceutical companies, civil societies, faith-based organization and the private sector in order to control this epidemic.

We in Africa are happy to be associated with India as a source of good quality and affordable medicines.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to conclude my remarks by saying that Public Health is one of the most important drivers of economic growth of any nation as it provides a critically important capital i.e. the healthy People. So let us continue to work together in the spirit of South-South cooperation for the benefit of our people.

With this remarks, once again I thank you for giving me this opportunity and I would like to wish the conference fruitful deliberations.

Thank you for your attention.

Friday 13 December, 2013 at 13:10.

6th ASICON – Mumbai 2013

Franco Buonaguro

Dr Buonaguro is the Editor-in-Chief of Infectious Agents and Cancer. He is currently the Director of Molecular Biology and Viral Oncology Unit, in the Department of Experimental Oncology at the Natl Cancer Institute “Fondazione Pascale”, Naples - Italy.

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