THE BLOG

Continuing the Fight Against Infectious Diseases

29/09/2014 15:57 BST | Updated 27/11/2014 10:59 GMT

It has certainly been an extraordinary few months for global health in Melbourne and Australia. While preparing for my new role at the Doherty Institute, I´ve been reflecting a little on the strong impact that the 20th International AIDS Conference made on all of us working on it, attending it or reading about it.

First and most importantly, I am immensely proud to say that on so many levels AIDS 2014 delivered a lasting legacy to our mourned colleagues on flight MH 17 to whom we dedicated the conference.

In Australia, we left an official legacy with the AIDS 2014 Legacy Statement, a document in which all of Australia's Health Ministers committed to working towards ending HIV transmission in Australia by 2020.

Some 4500 people have signed on to the AIDS 2014 Melbourne Declaration that states that non-discrimination is fundamental to an evidence-based response to HIV and effective public health programmes and calls for immediate and unified opposition to these discriminatory and stigmatising practices. I believe the Declaration was fundamental in placing stigma and discrimination as the priority issue for the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS.

Nevertheless, I think our colleagues would have been especially touched by the coming together of the scientific and community groups in Melbourne - something that was heartening to see. They would also have been chuffed too to see what my conference co-chair and Immediate Past President of the International AIDS Society Françoise Barré-Sinoussi said was the "return of science to the International AIDS Conference." I second that and it is my hope that the future International AIDS Conferences continue to embrace the notion in that good strong science at the event is key to informing debate and policy and making inroads into fighting the epidemic.

It's for the very same reasons that I am so excited about my new role at the Doherty Institute, an organisation I strongly believe can be a game changer on both the Australian and global research landscapes.

Today we do not need to look far to understand why it is we so vitally need a research institute of the ilk of the Doherty Institute. These past few months in particular have driven home to us all that the world is still grappling with infectious diseases on a scale that perhaps we may not so long ago have imagined might have receded.

The current Ebola outbreak sweeping across West Africa is a steep escalation from the smaller eruptions that used to characterise this virus. Ancient diseases such as this one are adept at taking advantage of our increased global mobility to spread themselves.

Elsewhere multi drug resistant tuberculosis continues to be a major public health issue, especially burdening people in countries like India, the sub-Saharan continent and the Eastern European region, not to mention on our doorstep in Papua New Guinea. Treatment for most, remain long, painful and expensive.

And let´s not forget influenza - each year, new strains of flu develop in the wake of the most up-to-date vaccines.

We have a responsibility to respond to the challenge of infectious diseases in the twenty first century, nationally, regionally and globally I am excited about the strong role that the Doherty Institute will play on the national, regional global health agendas. In the recent words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "The world can no longer afford to short change global public health."