There has been an outpouring of emotions on social media sites such as facebook and twitter on the passing of Dr. Suniti Solomon.Dr. Suniti Solomon was India’s foremost HIV/AIDS researcher. She documented the nation’s first HIV case before setting up the first voluntary testing and counseling center Y R Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education (YRG CARE) for the disease. She died at the age of 76.
In 1986, her discovery of the infection in six blood samples collected from female sex workers in southern India created headlines and she has won many awards for her work in the field.YRG CARE is a premier HIV/AIDS care and support centre in Chennai. She was also the Professor of Microbiology at the Madras Medical College.
The New Yorker did an article on her called “Postscript: Suniti Solomon”. Michael Specter, the author, writes , “many researchers predicted a crisis in India unlike those in any other nation. But it never happened —in part because India had Suniti Solomon.”
The Alliance India spoke about the loss of Dr. Suniti Solomon and celebrates her remarkable life as an example to us all to work selflessly towards ending the HIV epidemic. James Robertson, Executive Director of Alliance India, reflected on her passing, “Dr Solomon stepped up to the challenge of HIV/AIDS long before it was fashionable. Her leadership had a transformative effect on the response to the epidemic in India and around the world. The impact of her work was profound, and her voice will be sorely missed at a time when India’s HIV response needs her wisdom and guidance.”
Times of India on facebook posted “Sad week for India.For close to three decades Dr Solomon used science to save and make lives, and lost hers to cancer.”
According to Scroll,” if it weren’t for Dr. Solomon , India would have never known about HIV/AIDS”.
The International Aids Society posted “it is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Dr. Suniti Solomon. She was a pioneer of HIV research and treatment in India and a close friend of IAS. The Indian AIDS epidemic was dramatically altered by her vision, creativity, tenacity and commitment to the highest standards of care and prevention for people affected by HIV.”
In the last three decades, there was hardly any event or academic programme on HIV in Chennai in which she had not participated. She has published papers extensively on HIV epidemiology, prevention, care, support and related gender issues. Some of the awards given to her across the years included: the Lifetime Achievement Award for Service on HIV/AIDS by the state-run Dr MGR Medical University ,the ‘National Women Bio-scientist Award’ , the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society and the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for education and humanitarian services.
“The news of her death is a shock,” says P. Kugananthan. He was the former Corporation Medical Officer, who had worked with her. “This will be one vacuum that will be hard to fill”, he said.