The global response to HIV-AIDS is an “extraordinary translation” of effective and strategic development of prevention and treatment, the 2015 John Chalmers Oration at Flinders Medical Centre will be told this week.
Professor Steve Wesselingh, Executive Director of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), will outline the lessons for research translation and implementation science over the past 30 years since the first case of AIDS.
“It is well documented that the health system is poor at moving discovery to health impact, and existing knowledge to clinical practice,” says Flinders alumnus Professor Wesselingh, who undertook his undergraduate and doctoral training at Flinders and postdoctoral training at John Hopkins in the United States.
“Lack of investment, entrenched practice, time-poor practitioners and financial incentives not to change are common deterrents.
“But the HIV-AIDS story has a much better outcome on many levels.”
Professor Wesselingh said the positive response lessons included:
- A lot of investment in basic science to develop diagnostics and treatments at that point in time
- A very active affected community to rally resources and support studies and prevention measures
- Wider community and political will to respond in developed countries and also fund prevention and action in Africa and Asia.
Almost half of people living with HIV in the world are accessing antiretroviral therapy, with 2 million people becoming newly infected by HIV every year.
“We’re now treating millions of people in developing countries, and the related death rate has gone down with help from prevention and primary health care actions.
“We can learn from this coordinated response, from prevention to drug clinical trials to primary health care and harm reduction.
“Such a strategic approach from discovery to health outcome would allow us to see more rapid results to other major health problems, so why haven’t we done it?”
The significant lessons in the response to the HIV-AIDS epidemic – from the first death from AIDS in 1981, to the discovery of the viral cause, to the development of diagnostics, treatments and prevention and implementation of positive outcomes worldwide will be outlined at the Flinders University annual oration, 12 noon – 1pm, Lecture Theatre 2, Flinders Medical Centre.
Professor Wesselingh is internationally recognised as an infectious diseases physician and researcher in neurovirology, HIV and vaccine development. Before joining SAHMRI, where he also is Infection and Immunity Theme Leader, he was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University from 2007-11.
John Chalmers AC was the first Professor of Medicine at Flinders, and from 1975-96 he played an important role in the medical scene in Australia, particularly in relation to medical research.