Ghana on Tuesday, opened a four-day international scientific conference on HIV in Africa, aimed at providing an open platform for scientists and researchers to share cutting-edge knowledge on and related infections.
The event known as the International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis, and Prevention Research in Resource-Limited Settings (INTEREST), which is being held for the first time in Accra, makes it the 13th edition since its launch in Uganda in 2007, with the overall goal of contributing to building the next generation of African scientists.
About 724 participants including world-renowned HIV experts and young African researchers from 42 countries around the world are attending the conference which was also attended by Ghana’s First Lady Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who delivered the keynote address.
She based her message on the need to accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, through the provision of targeted education and information as well as Family Planning services for especially teenagers to prevent unwanted pregnancies and other infections including HIV.
Mrs Akufo-Addo called for the effective implementation of the global 90-90-90 HIV targets of testing, treatment and ensuring that those tested positive were given sustained doses of Anti-Retroviral to suppress their viral loads.
Professor Kwasi Torpey, a Senior Lecturer at the University Of Ghana College Of Health Sciences, and the Local Co-Chair of the 2019 INTEREST Conference, explained that the annual meetings had become a premier scientific event and a recognised fixture in the HIV conference calendar.
He said Ghana had played an important role in HIV scientific advances on the African continent, and hosting the conference in Accra enabled scientists, clinicians, programme managers, students and other to showcase the great efforts that the country had made in its HIV responses.
Prof. Torpey stated that the country currently has a generalised but stable epidemic, and had over the last decade maintained a steady prevalence under 2.0 per cent among the adult population.
HIV prevalence among women engaged in sex work had fallen from 11.1 per cent in 2011 to seven per cent in 2015, and that across the nation more than 4,000 centres for the PMTCT of HIV had been established.
However despite challenges in this programme, the HIV transmission rate to babies had fallen remarkably from 12 per cent in 2016 to eight per cent in 2017, and again since Ghana adopted the WHO ‘Treat All’ policy in 2016, there had been appreciable yearly increases in the numbers of Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) placed on treatment, he said.
Prof. Elly Katabira of Makerere University of Uganda who is also Co-Chair of the 13th INTEREST Conference, said researchers from around the world were encouraged to submit abstracts in categories such as Basic science in HIV cure; Community and civil society engagement; as well as Epidemiology; HIV co-infections and co-morbidities.
He said other research topics were to also include HIV prevention including vaccines and antibodies; pre-exposure prophylaxis; Key Populations; Implementation science; Knowledge translation to policy and programming; Paediatrics and PMTCT; Stigma and discrimination; Treatment; and Women and HIV.
He said each year the conference attracted an increasing number of registrants and abstract submissions from a record of 65 from its first meeting to 613 submissions in 2019 from 39 countries.