amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

TREAT Asia Launches Drug Resistance Initiative

Dutch Grant Paves the Way for Surveillance and Monitoring Network in Asia and Africa


February 2006—TREAT Asia, along with the PharmAccess Foundation, will receive €10.2 million (approximately US$12.5 million) from the Stichting AIDS Fonds to help build capacity for HIV drug resistance surveillance and monitoring in developing countries in Asia and Africa. The award, a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the largest ever for TREAT Asia and will fund a significant expansion of the network's efforts over the next five years, beginning in the first quarter of 2006.

“This grant from the Dutch government is crucially important because it begins to lay the groundwork for long-term planning around treatment access,” said Kevin Frost, director of TREAT Asia. “As nations begin to scale up treatment, understanding patterns of HIV drug resistance, and hence the success or failure of treatment regimens, will be critical in helping countries choose the best treatment regimens for people with HIV/AIDS.”

The grant will involve a unique collaboration between the three organizations in Asia, Africa, and Europe, using a network model pioneered by TREAT Asia. PharmAccess Foundation will build on the success of TREAT Asia in establishing a resistance monitoring and surveillance network across 15 countries in Africa.

“TREAT Asia’s experience will be strongly factored into our efforts to establish a similar network in Africa,” said Dr. Tobias Rinke de Wit, PharmAccess’s director of advocacy and research. “Being able to work cooperatively with an organization such as TREAT Asia will allow PharmAccess to support its African health-care network, to put AIDS drug resistance on the agenda, and to pave the way for effective interventions.”

HIV drug resistance is perhaps the single greatest factor influencing the long-term success of treatment scale-up efforts both in Asia and Africa. Experience in the West has shown that understanding patterns of resistance is an important prerequisite for identifying and introducing effective second-line treatments, but few countries in Asia or Africa have either the technical expertise or the financial resources to undertake the necessary surveillance and monitoring.

The TREAT Asia initiative will consist of three integral components: HIV drug resistance surveillance (evaluating the spread of drug-resistant virus among newly infected patients); resistance monitoring (monitoring the emergence of drug-resistant HIV in infected patients) paired with a clinical observational database; and a quality assurance program to help ensure the accuracy and consistency of genetic analysis undertaken by participating laboratories. The grant will also enable TREAT Asia and PharmAccess to build regional capacity for laboratory testing, clinical monitoring, and policy development in order to sustain the monitoring and surveillance efforts over the long term. The initiative will involve several thousand patients across Asia and Africa.