It is my honour, pleasure, and privilege to address all the members of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) in African and the rest of the World, and particularly our potential participants to the ICASA 2021 Conference that will be in Durban, South Africa. Many of you will remember that in 2019 we had a successful conference in Kigali, Rwanda attended by nearly 9000 delegates. It was an exciting conference with many strategies shared, and the efforts to eradicate HIV was progressive. The UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV and AIDS target by 2030 projection, and there was an assurance that 95-95-95 is achievable. Suddenly the 2020 target was annihilated by the COVID 19 pandemic, which affected our health systems, particularly in Africa, resulting in many deaths.
At Society for AIDS in Africa, our main trust is our contribution towards ending HIV/AIDS and emerging diseases. There is a need to examine the effect of COVID 19 concerning ending HIV. The COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted the provision of life-saving services to vulnerable communities and increased infections. People living with HIV who contracted the COVID 19 found it difficult to manage the two conditions which led to ICASA 2021 Theme “Africa AIDS response: The race to 2030 – Evidence. Scale-up. Accelerates”, which seeks to consider the impact of HIV and that of COVID 19 and how to lessen the two diseases. Our members and potential participants are assured that ICASA 2021 is a reality. A virtual meeting, held with the Minister of Health, South Africa, Dr Zweli Mkhize, concerning ICASA 2021 conference. We are considering a virtual event in case the pandemic worsens. ICASA 2021 hybrid conference will host 3000 in-person attendees, and the rest of the delegates will join virtually.
The following objectives seek to address HIV and its related diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, malaria, and infectious diseases.
- To strengthen health systems to integrate high impact interventions on comorbidities, emerging infections and NCDs.
- To build, strengthen and invest in Africa's scientific capacity and manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
- To identify in Africa resource tailored interventions for populations most affected, including women, children, adolescents, men and Key Populations.
- To evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the HIV/AIDS response and share lessons learned in overcoming barriers in maintaining continuity of care for people living with and at risk for HIV infection.
- To amplify national, regional, continental, and global integration to reach epidemic control in Africa: Africa's contributions in the Diaspora.
Comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes are significant risks to contract COVID 19 infection. COVID 19 vaccines are now being produced, and these vaccines only have the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality. Many Africa nations are finding it difficult to get vaccines. There will be subsequent pandemics, and Africans need to come together and learn to make vaccines. The fight against infections disease is now, and the challenges faced by the population needs attention. There is a need for Africans in the Diaspora to end HIV/AIDS by 2030. Some Africans in the Diaspora have contributed to producing vaccines for COVID 19. Their contribution will be of great value to improve our health system to make our continents free of AIDS.
I assure everyone that ICASA 2021 will come off, and we are looking forward to an exciting conference.