amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

AIDS Advocates Gather in Kunming

First Meeting of Asian Community for AIDS Treatment and Advocacy


July 2005—Frika Iskandar, 23, formerly a field manager with the Spiritia Foundation in Indonesia, knows from her own experience what it’s like to cope with a diagnosis of HIV. That knowledge helps her to communicate with and provide support to others who are facing the harsh reality of HIV/AIDS in a country with limited resources and few trained healthcare workers.

First ACATA meeting

The first ACATA meeting brought together AIDS advocates from across Asia, including, from Viet Nam (left to right) Jeanne D'Arc Troung of Ho Chi Minh City and Nguyen This Diu and Duong Truong Thuy of Hanoi. (Photo: Wang Hau)

But the Spiritia Foundation is also an advocacy organization and in order to be effective its passionate young advocates need a high level of knowledge of treatment, prevention, and policy issues. “How can we explain all this information?” asks Iskandar. “How do we get the government to hear the community?”

To help build the skills of AIDS advocates in the region, TREAT Asia has established the Asian Community for AIDS Treatment and Advocacy (ACATA). The first meeting of the Community took place in Kunming, China, on 14 October. Eleven advocates from NGOs in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Viet Nam attended the intensive full-day workshop.

Participants learned about the biology of HIV and the principles of treatment from Kevin Frost, vice president for global initiatives at amfAR and director of TREAT Asia. Drs. Adeeba Kamarulzaman of the University of Malaya Medical Center (UMMC) in Kuala Lumpur and Rosanna Ditangco of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila discussed antiretroviral therapies and opportunistic infections respectively. Rowena Capistrano of RITM and Joselyn Pang of UMMC, both data managers for the TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database, made a joint presentation on the importance of adherence and adherence counseling. Participants also shared treatment literacy materials and discussed ways to improve them in a discussion led by amfAR staff members Jennifer Ho and Stan Wong.

ACATA will also help bridge the gap between community advocates and the medical/healthcare communities in their home countries. By bringing the Community together with the TREAT Asia network, advocates are able to interact with and learn from healthcare professionals, researchers, government health officials, and representatives from NGOs throughout the region.

ACATA is supported in part by a grant from the Positive Action Foundation.