BOSTON, MASS – The role of research in Senegal’s “low and stable” HIV rates began with a story about efforts to study HIV-2 there, and how that led to the country’s approaches to other endemic diseases. The story framed one of two lectures to open the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections Monday night, the N’Galy-Mann Lecture, an event honoring Dr. Bosenge N’Galy and former World Health Organization global HIV director Dr. Jonathan Mann, two pioneers of collaborative research in Africa.
When HIV-2 appeared in Senegal the discovery launched years of long-term collaboration, basing the country’s response on science from the start. It didn’t hurt, said Souleymane Mboup of the Universite Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar that political leadership was engaged from the start, social and religious leaders involved, and efforts to control sexually transmitted diseases had already involved sex workers in the country. But, Mboup said, “Research to inform the National Effort was critical.” What followed, while rates of HIV-2 descended, and while HIV-1 began to climb was the development of a national monitoring system, and some of the first research to demonstrate how the provision of antiretroviral treatment was, in fact, as possible in low-resource countries as in more developed countries.
Mboup compared Senegal’s relative success in controlling its HIV epidemic to successes in Thailand, where strong social marketing of condoms has been credited with containing the spread of the virus there, and Uganda, where an early government backed adoption of a behavior based campaign urging marital fidelity was credited with reversing the trajectory, for a time, of that country’s epidemic.