It is our pleasure to welcome you to the 11th National Conference of AIDS Society of India – ASICON 2018 at Bangalore from 2-4 November. After ASICON 2012 at Taj Yeshwantpur, it’s Bangalore’s turn again as the venue. Established in the year 2000, ASI is now 18 years old, surviving both – ‘infant mortality rate’ and ‘childhood mortality rate’ that is so high not merely for children but for organizations and is now in its adulthood. ASI is now a matured and well recognized organization, thanks to the efforts and support of hundreds of its members and well-wishers across the globe. While we fulfilled its main mandate of organising national conference annually since 2nd conference – ASICON 2009, its second mandate to publish a newsletter/journal has been fulfilled this year. Apart from organizing several continued medical education (CMEs), training workshops, symposia and partnering with several like-minded organisations on regular basis over the years, ASI has also achieved its much desired advisory status in last few years.
The months passed since ASICON 2017 has major turning points in our three decades of battling HIV/AIDS. After India adopted WHO‘s Test & Treat strategy as a national policy, the entire machinery has been gearing up to achieve the target of 90:90:90 by 2020 realistically. We are just a few months away from the deadline and a lot is to be achieved. The HIV/AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill passed in the Parliament after a decade of its pendency in early 2017 has now become HIV/AIDS Act 2017 – the law with several provisions to strengthen the PLHIV and prevent their discrimination and human rights violations. ASI has long been pleading for convergence of TB and HIV national programmes and recently the Central Government decided to implement it with recommendations from the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO). Now it should look at expanding the convergence to incorporate with control of Viral Hepatitis (B & C) to optimally use infrastructure and resources. ASI has excellent collaboration with National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and there is even a WhatsApp discussion forum- NAASH meaning “NACO-ASI against HIV”. NACO and ASI have jointly launched a survey of private HIV practitioners in India. We look forward to greater involvement of ART officials at ASICON this time with some add-on theme meetings.
On the therapeutic front our pharma companies continued to play a heroic role. Introduction of a robust integrase inhibitor molecule Dolutegravir, launch of Single Tablet Regimen with lower dose of Efavirenz (TLE400), recent launches of Tenofovir Alafenamide Fumarate (TAF) and its combo with Emtricitabine, Darunavir-Ritonavir combo has made us fully equipped with different lines of ART. All such new developments will be discussed and their applicability to India will find place in ASICON 2018.
It is heartening to note that, despite ranking 2nd in population (1/6th of the world’s people), and 3rd in number of HIV infections globally – meets almost 92% of global ART requirement India has emerged as a major asset, and not liability, in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, India never got an opportunity to organise a single International AIDS Conference (IAC) or IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS Science) and that warrants us to consolidate our energies and emerge as a global leader there too. India being the regional leader in HIV management and responsible for bringing accessibility and affordability for ART, its position will be further strengthened by hosting such a meeting and the ASI is the natural choice to achieve it.
With the ASI founding members and Governing Council members either growing older or busier, and the HIV epidemic continuing to mature in India, the time is ripe to pump in renewed vigor into the organization. ASI has been looking at the NextGen with hope and formulated several strategies to tap energy of young physicians and researchers expecting them to take-up leadership roles. Our new dream is to utilize the ASI Youth Forum to deliver us leaders in coming years to take-over ASI governing council!
We would like to continue the stride towards South-South Collaboration initiated last year to achieve exchange of knowledge towards better management of PLHIV between nations of these two continents.
Dr. Ishwar Gilada, President - ASI