Dr Suniti Solomon, Founder and Director of the YR Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education (YRGCARE) in Chennai, India, passed away on July 28, 2015. Dr Solomon was a notable member of our HIV/AIDS research community and a previous recipient of the N’Galy-Mann Award from the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in 2010.
Dr Solomon and her colleagues documented the first evidence and described the first cases of HIV infection in India in 1986, when she was serving as a Professor of Microbiology at the Madras Medical College and the Government General Hospital. She established the first voluntary testing and counseling center in India in a small house in Chennai. She was deeply committed to community education and mobilization and was a passionate supporter of women, including those from disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations in India.
She served as a member of the National Technical Team on Women and AIDS in India, a permanent member on the Microbicides Committee of the Indian Council for Medical Research, and a member of multiple national and international advisory groups on HIV/AIDS, including the Scientific Committee of the National AIDS Research Institute, the advisory board of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative-India, the India HIV/AIDS Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and many others. She was the Indian Principal Investigator of several pioneering HIV research studies including one of the first US National Institute of Mental Health multicountry HIV and STD prevention trials, a NIAID HIV Prevention Trial Network study evaluating stigma in health care settings in India, and a study evaluating immune correlates of mucosal transmission of HIV-1 to women in India, among others. She was also a passionate supporter of research, directing the Southern India program of the Brown/Tufts Fogarty AIDS Training and Research Project and establishing YRGCARE as one of the first community-based research and education centers for HIV/AIDS research and treatment in India in 1993.
Her awards and accolades are many including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the State Government’s Medical University in 2001, a second Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 from the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society, the National Women Bioscientists and Sivananda Eminent Citizen Awards in 2009, the CROI N’Galy-Mann Award in 2010, the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Education and Humanitarian Services in 2010, and she was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Medical Sciences in New Delhi in 2010. She has published extensively on HIV/AIDS epidemiology, prevention, care, research ethics, and gender issues. She will be sorely missed as a pioneer in research related to HIV/AIDS in India, and as a friend and colleague to us all. We extend our condolences to her family and to our friends at YRGCARE.