APCOM’s Research Ambassador, Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman will officially become the International AIDS Society (IAS) President this July at the 23rd International AIDS Conference that will take place virtually. She will be the first Asian to hold this position. We caught up with her on as the APCOM’s virtual pre-conference at the conference, Rights, Resources, Resilience: Connecting North America to Asia Pacific was recently announced.
APCOM: What does it mean to you to be the first person from Asia to lead the IAS?
It is a huge honour of course, but at the same time I also understand the huge responsibilities that come with this given where we are with the epidemic
APCOM: What are the goals you’re hoping to achieve as IAS President?
Firstly I hope to shine the spotlight a little more on the epidemic in Asia. We are a continent with the largest and diverse population. Our epidemic is characterized by its predominance in key populations. It’s also a challenging environment given the criminalisation of many of the behaviours that pit people at risk.
Secondly I would like to expand on the good work that the IAS has been working eg on Stigma and The Me and MyHCW project, for example. and the other is the No One Left Behind – both of course have a strong focus on Key Populations
APCOM: What are the most pressing issues in relation to the HIV epidemic, both globally and in the Asia Pacific region?
The rising prevalence and incidence of HIV in MSM, the poor performance in achieving the 90-90-90 goals for many of the countries in the region in comparison to our counterparts in Africa. With the exception of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam many of the countries in this region including my own are still not close to achieving these goals.
We therefore need to find new ways to bring ART to scale.
And of course, PrEP. Scaling up PrEP remains a challenge in this region.
APCOM: Will you be able to help bring more focus and resources to HIV prevention efforts in Asia and the Pacific?
That is certainly what I hope to do.
APCOM: What role do you see the IAS playing in efforts to decriminalise homosexuality across the Asia Pacific region?
Together with our other international partners and stakeholders this is certainly something that IAS can lend its voice to. And in Asia Pacific the issues are not limited to MSM. Sex work and drug use re also decriminalise and hamper the HIV response in the region and contribute hugely the pervasive stigma and discrimination towards the various Key Population groups.
We can certainly be the voice.
About Dr Abeeba Kamrulzaman
A graduate of Monash University and trained in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases in Melbourne Australia, Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman established the Infectious Diseases Unit at the University of Malaya Medical Centre. She is currently Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Yale University, USA.
In addition to her clinical and academic commitments, she has been actively involved in the community response to HIV/AIDS in Malaysia. As convenor of the Malaysian Harm Reduction Working Group of the Malaysian AIDS Council, she led the advocacy for the implementation of harm reduction measures to tackle the problem of HIV amongst injecting drug users in Malaysia. She was President of the Malaysian AIDS Council from 2006 to 2010 and continues to serve as an Executive Committee member since stepping down as President. In this capacity, she has been involved in advocating for and overseeing the implementation of community-based HIV/AIDS programmes across the country. She remains as the Chairman of the Malaysian AIDS Foundation, a Trust whose role is to raise funds for HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes implemented by the Malaysian AIDS Council.
In 2008, she established the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) at the University of Malaya. Research activities undertaken at CERiA include clinical and basic science studies, epidemiological as well as socio-behavioural research focusing on the marginalised communities in Malaysia, particularly people who use drugs, prisoners, and men who have sex with men.
Dr Kamarulzaman has been a committee member of several regional and international organizations including TREAT Asia, the International Society of Infectious Diseases, and WAS a Co-Chair of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on HIV. She was the Scientific Co-Chair of the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna in 2010 and in 2013 was the local host for the 7th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur. In April 2015 she was honoured with an Honorary Doctor of Laws from her alma mater, Monash University, for her outstanding achievements in medicine.