Chinese AIDS expert looks at changing pattern of transmission in China

In the first 10 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China, intravenous drug users and former plasma donors were hardest hit, but that has changed as sexually transmitted cases of HIV have outstripped all other forms of transmission, says Dr. Yiming Shao, chief expert on AIDS at the Chinese Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Shao will deliver one in a series of York U50 lectures in the Laboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems (LAMPS) Colloquium Series on Mathematics & Interdisciplinary Science – “AIDS Research and its Impact on AIDS Prevention and Care in China” – Friday, April 17 from 2:30 to 3:30pm in Curtis Lecture Hall E on York’s Keele campus.

“All signs indicate that the HIV epidemic in China is at a turning point of spreading from high-risk groups to the general population and from rural areas to the cities,” says Shao. “Prevention first is the cornerstone of the country’s health policy. Learning from the SARS epidemic, China has recently launched an impressive AIDS campaign by making serious political commitments, by strengthening the public health system and implementing an aggressive Four Frees and One Care Policy, which has greatly changed the landscape of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a positive way.”

Four Frees and One Care Policy offers free antiretroviral drugs, free prevention of mother-to-child transmission, free voluntary counselling and testing, free schooling to children orphaned by AIDS and care to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Right: Yiming Shao

Much progress has been made in the last five years, but huge challenges remain at the societal level and at the technical infrastructure level, says Shao, director of the Division of Research on Virology & Immunology at the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention in China. In addition, enhancing AIDS research and directing the AIDS control program based on scientific evidence are of utmost importance.

In his lecture, Shao will discuss the challenges facing the current AIDS control efforts in the country, as well as provide examples of the type of research needed to overcome obstacles in better measuring the epidemic and its trends, effectively organizing comprehensive prevention, providing sustainable treatment and care, and strengthening international cooperation towards an effective vaccine.

Shao’s work is divided into two major areas – public health research and basic and clinical research. He is credited with his role in founding the National AIDS Reference Laboratory and helping the country set up a five-level HIV testing lab network in the 1990s as well as the National HIV Drug Resistance Surveillance Network. He is the vice-chair of the National AIDS Expert Committee and the author and co-author of more than 10 books. He has also received numerous national awards for his work.

In addition to the work with his colleagues which resulted in the initiation of a national HIV molecular survey and the reported transmission route of the HIV-1 subtypes in China, Shao also studied related biological factors influencing the epidemic. He used Chinese smallpox vaccine as a vector and designed new HIV antigens based on studying the mechanism of protective immunity from the world’s first successful lentivirus vaccine developed by Chinese scientists. The HIV vaccine they developed protected monkeys against a homologous SHIV challenge and is now moving to Phase I clinical trial.

Each LAMPS Colloquium Series on Mathematics & Interdisciplinary Science lecture features a leading expert in the field of mathematics and related multidisciplinary areas. The lectures are open to everyone.

For more information, visit the LAMPS Web site.