ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
The 10th SA AIDS Conference will most likely be a Hybrid conference with a combination of live and virtual. The conference has been scheduled for 08th - 11th June 2021.
The theme of the 10th SA AIDS Conference 2021 is: Ending AIDS & Global Pandemics”
CHAIR OF THE 10th SA AIDS CONFERENCE 2021
Dr Gloria Maimela, Director: Health Programmes
B-Nursing (Wits); MBBCH (Wits); Dip HIV Man (CMSA); MBA (GIBS)
10th SA AIDS Conference Chair
The world is facing global uncertainties with unprecedented socio-economic and political upheavals, funding uncertainties and global pandemics, COVID-19 being the latest threat. Currently, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc globally with over 45 million people infected as of October 2020. South Africa (SA) currently ranks 12th in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide. From the onset of the pandemic, scientists expressed concern over the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV (PLHIV) particularly in a country like SA with the highest burden of HIV. Although it doesn’t seem like PLHIV have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, local studies have highlighted the risk of severe disease and mortality in PLHIV infected with COVID-19. The greatest threat to date has however been to HIV services as health systems, the backbone of HIV service delivery in SA, bear the brunt of the pandemic.
Through collaboration with donors, research scientists, communities and civil society, SA has made huge strides towards HIV epidemic control. In 2018 it was announced that SA had reached the first 90% of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goals. Over 90% of the 7.8 million PLHIV in SA are aware of their HIV status. SA was well on its way to reaching the second and third 90s in ensuring 90% of PLHIV are on antiretroviral treatment (ART) and 90% are virally suppressed. In 2019, UNAIDS announced that 3 districts in Kwa Zulu Natal had reached 90-90-90 and many more districts were well on track towards this great achievement. This however is currently under threat from COVID-19 and the risk of reversing gains made in the South African HIV response is real.
COVID-19 has directly and indirectly resulted in PLHIV being unable to access HIV and TB testing, prevention, and treatment services. Like many countries, SA imposed severe movement restrictions to combat COVID-19 transmission and this made it difficult for PLHIV to access services. Key and vulnerable populations including adolescent girls and young women and sex workers were also affected as COVID-19 undermined the HIV prevention response. Healthcare workers also became infected or affected by COVID-19 and random facility closures further disrupted services. In the meantime, the risk of a resurgence is real as COVID-19 complacency sets in, further putting HIV/TB service delivery at risk.
It is against this background that I am excited to announce the upcoming 10th SAAIDS conference from 8 -11 June 2021. Now more than ever, we need to convene a meeting of scientists, donors, government officials and society to not only get the HIV response back on track, but to also leverage lessons learnt from the HIV response to better respond to current and future global uncertainties and pandemics. COVID-19 has galvanised scientific expertise and multisectoral communities into action and we need to leverage this momentum to move the HIV response forward. We urgently need to find ways to jointly navigate the HIV response through new sets of global and local challenges to reach and maintain HIV epidemic control. It is for this reason that the theme for the SAAIDS21 conference is: Ending AIDS & Global Pandemics.
I urge you to join us next year in June for a blended conference experience where you will choose to either attend in person or participate remotely. For those of you attending in person, we will do our utmost best to ensure the environment is as safe as possible by strictly adhering to COVID-19 infection prevention control. Either way, we will once again gather brilliant minds together and share information through abstracts, renowned speakers and robust debates to make this a memorable experience for everyone.
This promises to be a riveting, absolutely “have to be there” conference where you will get world class information first-hand.
The Board, the Committee and I look forward to seeing you then
Dr Gloria Maimela