A new regional initiative to curb HIV/Aids is in operation, with Thailand being positioned as its hub.
Housed at the Thai Red Cross-Aids Research Centre, the Inform Asia: USAID's Health Research Programme (Inform Asia) initiative promises to assist the Thai Red Cross in developing its research capacity in health and to become a regional knowledge-management hub.
This cooperation in research and development will run in a decentralised manner, with regional hospitals and public and private research institutes playing an active role.
Thai Red Cross Aids Research Centre director Praphan Phanuphak said Asia Inform was based on the very familiar concept of "teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".
He was speaking at the event held to launch Inform Asia on Wednesday.
Joining forces with USAID (the US Agency for International Development) and the Thai Red Cross-Aids Research Centre in launching the project are Research Triangle International and the President's Emergency Plan For Aids Relief.
They hope to boost Asia's research capacity for HIV-Aids.
"This initiative is going to take every party on board, be it developed or developing nations," Praphan said.
Inform Asia aims to establish ties with specialised research institutes in Asia and worldwide to take part in the five-year project and to respond to an immediate need.
During the first three years, the initiative will focus on developing a rapid system for testing for HIV/Aids and its treatment.
Committees will be set up at regional and national levels to supervise local research institutes in setting priorities and conducting the project.
The scope of the project will eventually be expanded to cover infectious and non-infectious diseases. Currently, tuberculosis and malaria are on the top of the list.
According to Ravipa Vannakit of USAID's Development Assistance Specialist Office of Public Health, available data on tuberculosis and malaria is very fragmented, and there is an urgent need to tackle this.
"Our focus will be drawn on universities and research institutes in Thailand and Laos PDR as a start-up," said Michael Yates, USAID mission director. "Our next objective is to expand the scope of this project to Myanmar next year, and across the region later."
Inform Asia believes this research initiative will help Thailand and other countries in the region to utilise effective strategies and scientifically sound data in health policy.