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Winter 2004
East Meets Westwood
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Sarkar is thankful for that. “I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not attended the program and studied under Roger [Detels]," he says. “He brings many people from different disciplines and nations together to ensure the highest standards of scientific epidemiology. He was so dedicated, committed and caring to students from developing countries. I found it very touching."

Five years earlier, when Detels had responded to the Fogarty International Center’s request for applications for HIV/AIDS-training programs to assist developing countries, the situation in Asia was quiescent. But having had enough experience in Asia to anticipate that an epidemic was near, Detels decided that was where he would focus.

An unassuming yet highly respected physician who began his career at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1966, Detels was already established as a leading HIV/AIDS epidemiologist. In 1984, before HIV was even known as the culprit, the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) was launched under Detels’ leadership at UCLA (one of four initial sites) as the first and largest study to examine the natural history of AIDS, focusing on gay men. In the two decades since, during which more than 5,000 volunteer subjects have participated, MACS has contributed key findings on multiple aspects of the disease.

Beginning in 1988, just after the UCLA/Fogarty AITRP was funded (one of the original eight nationwide; there are now 25), an explosive epidemic of injection-drug use occurred in the countries bordering the infamous Golden Triangle, where Sarkar would be stationed three years later. By the following year, high proportions of injection-drug users in Thailand, Myanmar, China’s Yunnan Province and northeast India were found to be infected. The Thais’ sentinel-surveillance program, implemented in 1989, documented the spread of HIV/AIDS from that population to commercial sex workers, and from there it moved outside the highest-risk groups and into the majority heterosexual population.


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