“My mother and her student identified the first cases of HIV in India in the ’80s. She was a professor of microbiology, and her student was doing her dissertation. That’s where everything started. But, I think once she identified those first cases, it almost became sort of a responsibility to her to see it through: ‘I just can’t let it go. What can I do about it?’ So, she started a non-profit organization in Chennai, India, in 1993, with the vision that everybody living with HIV in India should live with respect and dignity across the country.
“I am hoping to carry on her vision. Most of my work is with vulnerable populations across India, especially in Delhi, and I work very closely with government programs, with inputs from the community, to identify ways to get people tested and help them access treatments and other medical care. Our organization is part of the Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition, so we’re doing research to end pandemics that exist today, in addition to pandemics that may show up years from now.
“We’ve done a lot of these research programs for India, and the question really is: What does that mean to the communities? How are we impacting the lives of the people who come to us? To me, anyone who walks in through our door should walk out with a smile, regardless of who you are, where you’re from and what you do. Because everyone should have access to health. That’s what I learned from my mother, and it’s what I live by.”
Sunil Solomon, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., is a member of the Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition, working to proactively track infectious diseases and prevent them from becoming global outbreaks — inspired by his mother. Follow Sunil in “The Virus Hunt: India” (link in bio).