16 Jun RECAP OF A SUCCESSFUL INTEREST 2023 IN MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE
This year, the International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis, and Prevention Research in Resource-Limited Settings (INTEREST) was held in Maputo, Mozambique last 9th to 12th of May. Since its inception in 2007, INTEREST has evolved into a leading and abstract-driven scientific conference with annual meetings taking place in different locations in sub-Saharan Africa. This was the first in-person INTEREST conference since 2019 with almost 800 registrants, a third of which were Mozambican.
INTEREST 2023 had a full state-of-the art scientific program. Participants maximized INTEREST as a platform to exchange pivotal findings, scientific collaborations, partaking in shared experiences, and build the African continent’s capacity to combat HIV. It also offered early career researchers with the unique opportunity to present their work, attend early morning mentoring and abstract writing sessions with senior scientists, sit in grantspersonship sessions, and network with their peers during the coffee breaks or poster tours.
With over 800 abstracts submitted, this year’s invited abstract winners were of exceptionally high quality. The highest-scoring abstract presentations by early career investigators were given by Vânia Maphossa from Mozambique and Rachel Chamanga Kanyenda from Malawi, who received the Joep Lange and Charles Boucher awards respectively. Both winners will receive free registration plus travel and accommodation to attend INTEREST 2024. Vânia Maphossa presented on “Cytokine Profile and Association with Disease Severity in Maputo, Mozambique.” Her research aimed to evaluate parameters to be used as biomarkers of COVID-19 severity that can be used in the clinical follow-up of patients with COVID-19. The key study result was the observation of a different cytokine profile in the Mozambican patients, pointing out other cytokines which differ from those reported in other studies. Maphossa believes this is the initial evidence needed to help future designs of immune therapies adjusted to the Mozambican population characteristics or immune profiles.
Currently, Maphossa is studying the immune response to infectious and non-communicable diseases such as Leukemia. She hopes that by building this solid base in immunology, it will give her the ability to apply immunological tools and knowledge to raise evidence for other public health diseases of importance to Mozambique. On winning the Joep Lange Award, she shares:
“For me and my team, this award means that we are on a good path in the science field. We choose to dedicate our effort to unraveling the peculiarities and features of the immune response of our population and having our work recognized gives us not just straight but also validation and visibility to show our work and interact with other’s expertise in the field.”
Rachel Chamanga Kanyenda’s research titled “Acceptability, Feasibility, and Effectiveness of Transitioning to 6 Monthly Multi-Month Dispensing of Antiretroviral Therapy to People Living with HIV in the COVID-19 Era in Malawi” found that scaling up of the 6-monthly multi-month dispensing (6-MMD) system is feasible and acceptable amongst healthcare workers, and that the main barriers encountered were drug stock-outs rather than social barriers. Kanyenda is confident in the implications of her research findings, especially now that the program is expanding service delivery to target audiences outside of the initial group. She believes that expanded service delivery should become standard policy.
At the moment, Kanyenda is focused on the uptake of PrEP and adherence among eligible HIV-negative people. On winning the Charles Boucher Award, she shares:
“Winning the Charles Boucher Award was an amazing experience! When submitting my abstract at INTEREST 2023, I was not aware of any awards. I was merely looking forward to sharing the work that I had conducted so diligently as a young investigator with support from various mentors. Winning the prize has brought me confidence and motivation to continue to conduct high-quality research.”
We thank Mozambique for the wonderful conference and for dedicating an INTEREST Song to the conference. In the next two weeks, the enduring materials will be found on the INTEREST website.
We look forward to hosting next year’s INTEREST in Cotonou, Benin!
The INTEREST Conference is co-organized by the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development and Virology Education.