The 11th SAAIDS Conference 2023, under the Theme: Act, Connect and End the Epidemic will be at the Durban ICC on the 20th -23rd June, 2023. Now, more than ever before, we need to ACT to end an epidemic that has been a part of our lives for decades. We hope to do this by bringing the HIV community together under the same roof, post the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, to deliberate on next steps towards an AIDS free generation in 2030. In this conference, we wish for people living with HIV, global and local policy makers, public and private sector officials, research scientists, donors, academics, clinicians, and civil society to continue the conversations, to jointly share new evidence and innovations that will help us end the HIV epidemic once and for all.
As we move away from COVID-19 restrictions, the time has come to get together, triple our efforts and harness a social compact that will accelerate progress towards 2030 UNAIDS targets. While South Africa has made tremendous effort towards the 90-90-90 targets, we are all painfully aware how the COVID-19 pandemic chipped away years of gains made in the HIV and TB response. The pandemic did not just strain health systems but further enhanced barriers to accessing healthcare, deepened inequalities, spiralled poverty and led to increased rates of gender-based violence and femicide, all recipes for HIV spread.
Despite the drawbacks, the country quickly adapted and introduced innovations that included self-care and differentiated models of care to ensure continuity of care. Most importantly, the introduction of novel HIV prevention and other technologies have revolutionized our approach to the HIV response, provided those who need them the most can access them, a critical and non-negotiable conversation that needs to be held at this conference. Through collective global solidarity, innovation, and commitment, we have shown tremendous resilience. COVID-19 has taught us to leverage existing investments to fight new threats and to prepare for the future.
We need to use the same energy to ensure that HIV remains a priority within health and social structures, making sure we leave no one behind. Mobilisation of adequate and sustainable resources is critical to support Universal Health Coverage. Strengthening and expanding community-led approaches will also contribute immensely towards achieving the relevant SDGs. Our response should be premised on evidence and at this moment we are confident that as a country we know what works, what doesn’t work and areas that need to be strengthened. The soon to be launched 5th generation National Strategic Plan: 2023 – 2028 (NSP) will further give impetus to our response and emphasise our renewed commitment to achieve the agenda 2030.
This is not the time to become complacent. As we accelerate our efforts towards achieving the 95-95-95 targets we need to ACT with urgency, to ensure equitable and sustainable access to care for all with emphasis on key and priority populations to END THE EPIDEMIC.
We look forward to connecting with you at the conference.