The extraordinary complexity of emerging infectious diseases calls for new paradigms and approaches to understand the casual mechanisms underlying pathogen emergence and to improve disease prevention. An attempt was made to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and stimulate transdisciplinary approaches to improve emerging infectious disease research during and subsequent to a meeting held in March 2005 as part of the US NIH Roadmap initiative "Research Teams of the Future." The meeting drew on models and theories associated with the idea of humans and nature as interactive, complex systems. Of the three diseases chosen as case studies to represent the wide range of social and ecological emergence factors involved (dengue, leptospirosis, and HIV/AIDS), HIV/AIDS proved especially difficult. This Profile examines the meeting themes with a particular focus on the deliberations of a working group focused on HIV/AIDS. Attention is given to the challenges of bridging different disciplines and perspectives in applying a social-ecological framework to analyze HIV/AIDS and the benefits of reductionistic vs. holistic strategies in responding to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The issues raised point to opportunities to significantly deepen understanding of HIV/AIDS as a transdisciplinary problem. (copyright) 2005 EcoHealth Journal Consortium.
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