History of the Early HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Thailand and Highlights of the Country’s Key Contributions to Global Prevention. A Talk by Bruce G. Weniger


In early 1988, HIV exploded in Thailand in sequential waves, first among injecting drug users, followed by brothel-based female commercial sex workers (CSWs), male CSWs, and male STD-clinic patients. The epidemic then spread into the general population represented by sentinel survey groups:  military conscripts (3.7% by 1993) and pregnant women attending public antenatal-care clinics (2.3% by 1995).  After initial complacency and denial, Thailand’s willingness to publish such data helped marshal resources and target defenses against HIV, a model for neighboring states following a similar pattern. Thailand’s key innovations contributing to the global control effort included the “100% condom-only” program in brothels, the world’s first – and to date, only – large-scale, field trial (Rayong and Chonburi) of an experimental HIV vaccine that showed any efficacy, albeit modest, in preventing HIV infection (60% in the 1st year, falling to 31% in the 3rd), and testing drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and to reduce acquisition when taken in advance of risky behavior.  In recent decades, Thailand remains a model for its diverse prevention programs, its wide provision of drugs to treat existing infections and prevent new ones, and studies to improve HIV vaccines.

Dr Bruce G. Weniger is part-time International Professor at the Research Institute for Health Sciences of Chiang Mai University (https://bit.ly/BGW-LinkedIn) and Adjunct Associate Professor at Emory University (https://bit.ly/BGW-Emory). After MD and MPH degrees at UCLA and pediatrics at the University of Utah, in 1980 he joined the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, followed by career assignments in surveillance, outbreak investigation, epidemiology training, and vaccination technology.
On detail to WHO in the mid-1980s, he advised the Field Epidemiology Training Program in the Thailand Ministry of Public Health (MOPH). Returning to Bangkok in 1990, he was first U.S. director of the joint AIDS field research station of the MOPH and CDC, publishing Thailand’s first comprehensive review of HIV/AIDS, and papers on its molecular epidemiology, public response, and promise for vaccine trials. From 1995 until CDC retirement in 2010, he focused on safer, simpler, swifter needle-free vaccine delivery methods to avoid needle-syringe drawbacks.

Over the years, he has been an Associate Editor of Vaccine, did short-term assignments for smallpox eradication in Bangladesh, refugee health in Somalia, and guinea worm eradication in West Africa, and served as chair or committee/workgroup member of the Annual Conferences on Vaccine Research, the WHO, the International Society for Vaccines, PATH, PAHO, GAVI, and the White House Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Date: Thursday, 2 May 2019
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.