IeDEA All Africa meeting: Purpose and program
IeDEA Southern Africa hosted IeDEA’s third All Africa Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 30-31 October 2019. Attended by 180 participants from 20 predominantly African countries, the meeting focused on fostering early career investigators and multiregional collaborations, and exploring issues beyond HIV – including tuberculosis (TB), non-communicable diseases (NCDs), cancer, and mental health.
The IeDEA All Africa meetings have been held approximately bi-annually and play an important role in strengthening and accelerating research collaboration across sub-Saharan Africa, which bears the greatest burden of the HIV epidemic. Mary-Ann Davies, co-Principal Investigator for Southern Africa, opened the meeting by comparing IeDEA research with the inspirational story of Kenyan athlete, Eliud Kipchoge, who recently achieved the seemingly impossible by being the first and only person to run a marathon in less than two hours. She encouraged participants to see the deep and broad benefits of collaboration, and set the tone of the meeting with Kipchoge’s quote: “100% of me is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team.”
The program included 4 capacity-building workshops, 1 workshop on cervical cancer prevention, 2 plenary sessions, and a review of progress on “Treat All” research priorities, which was the focus of the previous All Africa meeting led by IeDEA-Central Africa in 2017. Early career investigators showcased their work in oral and themed poster presentations, and each region workshopped a multiregional concept.
As one participant commented, “Sharing experiences with others during these meetings are opportunities to think more about research questions that should be addressed in your own country or region.”
Plenary sessions on local epidemics and advancing HIV treatment-related research
In the opening plenary, Glenda Gray, President of the South African Medical Research Council, highlighted South Africa’s triple burden of HIV, TB and NCDs, compounded by interpersonal violence, which are challenges that present opportunities for research.
Neil Martinson, CEO of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit, Soweto, South Africa, spoke about the Regional Prospective Observational Research in TB (RePORT-TB) multi-country collaboration to enhance regional capacity and advance science using common protocols, and provided sage advice for those setting up TB research cohorts.
Lloyd Mulenga, National Coordinator for HIV, Ministry of Health, Zambia, described challenges and successes of implementing the national dolutegravir roll-out. He noted that research was still needed on safety of this antiretroviral medicine in children, in bones and kidneys, and in individuals co-infected with hepatitis B virus.
Priscilla Tsondai, IeDEA Southern Africa PhD candidate, and Rachel Vreeman, Chair of the IeDEA Pediatric Working Group and East Africa IeDEA investigators, highlighted the importance of adolescents living with HIV and the need for dedicated data collection to assess transition to adulthood.
Supporting early career investigators
IeDEA, and provided opportunities for interaction with senior investigators. Chairing a poster session on children and adolescents, Rohan Hazra, Chief of the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), congratulated presenters on the quality of their presentations and reminded them that continually developing their presentation skills would serve them well throughout their careers. The sessions were considered,”a great opportunity to involve more early-stage investigators and get direct feedback from experts,” while more senior investigators commented that they “appreciated the opportunity to get some insights into the interesting work carried out by our early stage investigators.”
Multiregional concept development by African regions
The All Africa 2019 meeting explicitly aimed to foster multiregional collaborations across IeDEA’s African regions, and each developed a draft multiregional concept for discussion at the meeting:
• Central Africa: Time to ART initiation as a predictor of loss to care and viral suppression among people living with HIV entering HIV care under Treat All.
• East Africa: Measuring adverse pregnancy and newborn congenital outcomes among pregnant women living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy within IeDEA.
• West Africa: Establishing a global cohort of pediatric non-progressors.
• Southern Africa: HIV-1 subtype specific drug resistance in patients failing dolutegravir-based regimens.
Participants were able to join concept working groups to engage in highly interactive discussion sessions chaired by the concept leads, followed by brief plenary report backs. By the end of the meeting, four new multiregional concept collaborations had been established!