Looking back at the inception of HIV-NAT in celebration of Professor Praphan Phanuphak’s retirement

Their vision was a cross-cultural HIV research center that would conduct clinical research and intervention studies yielding answers to locally and regionally relevant research questions. Their research would serve first and foremost the people living with HIV, the scientific community, healthcare workers, governments, and universities. This vision was the catalyst for HIV-NAT, the largest international HIV clinical research unit within the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre in collaboration with the Netherlands and Australia. This dream began after a meeting between Professor Joep Lange (Netherlands), Professor David Cooper (Australia), and Professor Praphan Phanuphak (Thailand). These directors, of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development, the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Sydney, and the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre in Bangkok, respectively, have established a research collaboration that grew into a world-renowned independent research center (HIV-NAT), which has been conducting cutting-edge research in the fields of antiretroviral therapy, HIV prevention, HIV care, and more.

Over the past 25 years, HIV-NAT has grown into an internationally recognized research organization, largely due to their devoted director, one of the giants of HIV research globally, Professor Praphan Phanuphak. Professor Phanuphak is a specialist of immunology, microbiology, and internal medicine. He was good friends with the founder of AIGHD, Professor Joep Lange, and shared in his mission to make HIV treatment more affordable in Thailand and other resource-limited settings.

Soon after the creation of HIV-NAT, the three directors initiated the Bangkok International Symposium, which had its 22nd annual event this past January. This conference seeks to provide health care workers and those living with and affected by HIV with a comprehensive review of the management of HIV and opportunistic infections, an update on efforts to improve access to therapy, and the latest on research into HIV treatments and vaccines.

After decades of friendship and collaboration, Professor Phanuphak is now retiring from his role as director at the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre. In 2019, he was asked to deliver the prestigious N’Galy-Mann lecture at CROI. He has been a PI on numerous internationally funded HIV studies and played a large role in furthering HIV research in Thailand and around the world.

After Joep’s passing in 2014, Professor Phanuphak continued to work with researchers at AIGHD, including professors Peter Reiss and professor Frank Cobelens on HIV and tuberculosis prevention, treatment and care. Professor Peter Reiss, upon Professor Phanuphak’s retirement, said to him, “You are truly a very passionate person. Passionate about people’s lives, the people you care about, the people you serve, and knowing somebody like that is very special.”

AIGHD wants to congratulate Professor Praphan Phanuphak on his dedication to the world of HIV research. We wish him the best in his retirement, and we know that his hard work will greatly and in a lasting way continue to influence the generation of researchers to come.