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HIV Hero: Dr. Phanuphak Diagnosed Thailand's First Cases of HIV

HIV Hero: Dr. Phanuphak Diagnosed Thailand's First Cases of HIV

HIV Hero: Dr. Praphan Phanuphak, Thailand

"Stigma has improved somewhat but there is still a lot [of it] in Thailand. For example, many people with HIV are denied employment".

In February 1985, Professor Praphan Phanuphak diagnosed Thailand's first three cases of HIV and has been involved in HIV prevention and treatment research ever since. Dr. Phanuphak, along with late professors Joep Lange and David Cooper, cofounded HIV-NAT (the HIV Netherlands, Australia, Thailand Research Collaboration), Asia's first HIV clinical trials center in Bangkok in 1996. 

Dr. Phanuphak has been a member of numerous national and international HIV committees and organizations, including WHO and UNAIDS. In addition to serving as the director of the Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre for 31 years (1989-2020), Phanuphak is currently the Senior Research and Policy Advocacy Advisor of the Institute of HIV Research and Innovation (IHRI) in Bangkok, as well as the Director of HIV-NAT.

In Thailand and its surrounding regions, Dr. Phanuphak is a strong advocate of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) for preventing mother-to-child transmission. He is also a strong advocate for ART initiation on the same day of HIV diagnosis as well as for the U=U movement, Undetectable = Untransmittable, which he says is rarely talked about in Thailand. “Even the government has not mentioned [U=U] loudly, and many doctors won’t discuss it with their patients.”

Ultimately, Dr. Phanuphak says stigma is still the number one issue for people living with HIV in Thailand. “Stigma has improved somewhat but there is still a lot [of it] in Thailand. For example, many people with HIV are denied employment, are denied job promotions — even at some universities [people living with HIV] cannot get into the school.”

“Another issue is insurance,” he adds. “Not one insurance company in Thailand accepts people living with HIV, especially life insurance…. I tell them that the life expectancies are the same as [HIV-negative] people, but they don’t believe me. They don’t even listen to the head of the company.”

Learn more about Dr. Praphan Phanuphak's story and others in the newest episode of HIV Heroes.

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Desirée Guerrero

Editor

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.