INTEREST2020 Recap

INTEREST 2020 closed out the year with a virtual conference highlighting the achievements of young African scientists in the field of HIV.

Known as the “African CROI”, the annual INTEREST Conference brings together scientists involved in HIV treatment, pathogenesis, and prevention research in resource-limited settings from around the world. The INTEREST Conference provides a platform to share pivotal findings, promote collaboration, and transfer experiences across several fields and continents.

The conference brings together world-renowned HIV experts and young African researchers with an overall goal of building the next generation of African scientists and facilitating networking opportunities. INTEREST was co-founded by the late Professor Joep Lange of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD) and the late Professor Charles Boucher of Erasmus University. The first INTEREST Conference was held in 2007 in Uganda. Since 2014, the INTEREST Conference has been dedicated to the memory of Professor Joep Lange and Jacqueline van Tongeren of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the INTEREST 2020 conference was held virtually from November 30- December 4 with a pre-conference week held November 23-27. The event was initially planned to be held in Windhoek, Namibia in May 2020. Namibia has been playing a significant role in HIV scientific advances on the African continent. It is appropriate that scientists, clinicians, program managers, students, and others from across Africa get acquainted and appreciate the efforts that Namibia has made in combating HIV. The decision to move INTEREST to a virtual format allowed the conference to expand its activities and reach, while maintaining a Namibian theme through music.

The 14th Annual INTEREST conference was officially opened by the Honorable Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health. The conference co-chairs, Professor Catherine Hankins, AIGHD, and Dr. Elly Katabira, Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda worked closely with the 2020 local co-chairs, Anne-Marie Nitschke, Ministry of Health and Social Services, and Dr. Ismael Katjitae, National Technical Advisory Committee of the HIV/AIDS response. The conference included presentations, poster galleries and guided poster tours, networking sessions, and much more.

INTEREST received a record number of abstracts in 2020 with 904 abstracts submitted. This is a 33% increase from the 613 submitted abstracts in 2019. Additionally, INTEREST attracted delegates from 44 different countries from across Africa and around the globe. Of the 559 delegates, 67% were attending INTEREST for the first time.

As the world slowly returns to a yet-to-be-defined “new normal”, the INTEREST International Conference committee is exploring ways that everyone can come together again to celebrate the achievements of young scientists on the African continent. Please continue to check and the INTEREST Twitter to stay up to date on all things related to INTEREST. Additionally, throughout the year, we will be checking in with previous Joep Lange award winners, the scientists with the highest-scoring abstract of that year, to see where they are now and how the INTEREST conference has helped them achieve their dreams.