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By Devina Haripersad

Senior Business/Finance journalist

11th SA AIDS Conference kicks off in Durban

The conference serves as a significant platform for taking stock of South Africa's post-pandemic response to HIV/AIDS, TB, and STIs.

The 11th South African AIDS Conference commenced today, 20 June 2023, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Under the theme “Act, Connect and End the Epidemic,” the conference has brought together policymakers, scientists, researchers, social activists, and people living with HIV to review progress and reflect on the fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) in the midst of pandemics and other global health threats.

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According to the Presidency, the conference serves as a significant platform for taking stock of South Africa’s post-pandemic response to HIV/AIDS, TB, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and deliberating on emerging priorities. It aims to forge ahead with efforts and strategies to eliminate HIV as a public health threat in the country.

Several key objectives

The Department of Health explained that participants at the conference are focused on several key objectives.

These include assessing the progress made in epidemic control, identifying and addressing barriers to achieving epidemic control by 2030, exploring the latest tools and technologies in the fight against HIV/AIDS, ensuring community advocacy to leave no one behind, and empowering youth affected by HIV/AIDS to play a leadership role.

The conference encompasses various tracks that delve into specific aspects of the HIV/AIDS and TB response.

These tracks cover topics such as epidemiology and pandemics, basic and clinical sciences, social behavioral science, implementation science, community leadership and advocacy, policy, finance, and ethics, as well as youth and HIV.

Range of topics

Distinguished speakers at the conference are engaging in critical discussions on a range of topics. Some of the key subjects under consideration include South Africa’s progress towards achieving the 95-95-95 targets, the latest updates on modeling the local epidemic, addressing HIV incidence in adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), evaluating the effectiveness of current tools, closing gaps in global and South African key populations’ HIV incidence, investments in men and HIV, and advancements in HIV prevention technologies.

While Deputy President Paul Mashatile was expected to deliver the opening address, he was unable to attend the conference due to urgent government commitments.

ALSO READ: Sexual health: South Africa has the highest HIV/Aids rates globally

In his absence, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla delivered the address. Phaahla said that South Africa was on the three global lists of high-burden countries for TB, HIV-associated TB, and drug resistant TB.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over one hundred and ten thousand (110,000) people with TB in South Africa lost their lives between 2020 and 2021.

“Since 2010, over one million South Africans are estimated to have succumbed to TB which is preventable and curable.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have severely impacted on TB services throughout the country,” he said.

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