New office in India to study HIV

A new Yale AIDS research office in India will give University scientists a headquarters from which to conduct several research programs in regions of India that are at high risk for HIV, Yale officials said.

The office serves as a satellite location of Yale’s New Haven-based Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS and its three principal projects will examine ways to educate high-risk individuals about HIV, monitor therapy in patients, and examine religious and cultural factors in HIV prevention and health. Yale President Richard Levin formally inaugurated the Chennai, India, office during his four-city tour of the country earlier this month.

“They’re bringing all the right people together to try to head as comprehensive an approach as possible to dealing with those afflicted with AIDS and HIV,” Levin said.

The three projects housed in the office examine different populations across six Indian states and will not necessarily benefit from sharing their quarters with other Yale projects, CIRA Coordinator Gai Pollard said. But she said the new office — rented from the Y.R. Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education, one of India’s leading research centers — will facilitate the University’s operations in India.

“Trying to get administrative support, with the whole logistical way of trying to do research internationally, it makes a lot of sense to establish a center to support the projects,” Pollard said.

Yale School of Public Health scientist Nalini Tarakeshwar said the arrangements with YRG CARE are temporary until the University has completed legal procedures to establish its own independent administrative set-up. Tarakeshwar, who is working with YRG CARE to develop a secondary prevention program among HIV-positive males and uninfected females, said the office will aid her work by providing her space to conduct research and train project staff.

“I believe this is a very exciting time for Yale Public Health faculty and students interested in working in India,” Tarakeshwar said in an e-mail from India, where she plans to spend about three months each year. “It is evidence of Yale’s interest in India and is likely to provide an infrastructure to interested faculty and students to conduct their work in the future.”

Yale scientists will carry out their research with funding from several organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institute of Health and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

CIRA is collaborating with several India-based groups, including the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society and YRG CARE. Public Health School Dean Michael Merson said Yale scientists’ work with their Indian counterparts is important to their research.

“We can’t do this alone,” Merson said in a November interview. “The Indians have very much taken a lead on this and we’re working with them.”

Officials at Yale and India said they hope the new office will allow the University to further develop three principal projects and widen its focus to new areas of AIDS research.

“We are honored to be associated with Yale and I’m sure our collaboration will blossom into a beautiful flower into the next few years,” YRG CARE Director Suniti Solmon said. “We are working with Brown and Johns Hopkins, but Yale has its own special charm.”

Yale scientists are also involved with AIDS research in China, Russia and South Africa, said Merson, who established CIRA in 1997.

President Levin participates in the opening of the new Yale AIDS research office in India during his recent trip to the country.
Courtesy OPA
President Levin participates in the opening of the new Yale AIDS research office in India during his recent trip to the country.

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