Adeeba Steps Down As International AIDS Society President

IAS executive director Birgit Poniatowski says University of Malaya’s Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman brought tenacity to her two-year term leading the IAS through the uncertainty of Covid-19.

MONTREAL, August 3 – Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman has stepped down as president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the first Asian to be in command of the global organisation, after completing her term of two years.

IAS executive director Birgit Poniatowski said Dr Adeeba’s “signature calm presence” and “clarity of mind” as president of IAS, the largest association of HIV/AIDS professionals, had soothed anxiety in a period of global isolation and when the Covid-19 pandemic threatened the resources of the HIV response.

“Adeeba has spent decades challenging stigma, dismissing taboo and shattering glass ceilings,” Poniatowski said during the closing ceremony of the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) here on Tuesday.

“She brought this tenacity to her two-year term leading the IAS through the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Australian infectious disease physician Dr Sharon Lewin, who is director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne, succeeds Dr Adeeba from Malaysia’s University of Malaya as IAS president.

“Adeeba, you have led the IAS through a historic era, including our first-ever hybrid conference. As a woman in science, I look forward to the day when two consecutive female presidents isn’t remarkable – but today it is and I’m proud to be a part of this new era,” said Dr Lewin.

Describing Dr Lewin as having a “knack” for taking the most complex science and translating it for lay audiences, Dr Adeeba, an infectious disease physician, said she could think of no better leader to assume leadership of the IAS.

“As we strategise on how to shift the spotlight back to HIV and ensure that the global HIV response benefits from vaccine and treatment breakthroughs made in the Covid-19 response – Sharon is perfectly placed to bridge the worlds between duelling pandemics,” Dr Adeeba said.

Dr Beatriz Grinsztejn, an infectious disease physician-scientist from Brazil with over three decades of experience in HIV research, is IAS president-elect. This means the IAS will have three consecutive women presidents.

Newly elected International AIDS Society (IAS) president Dr Sharon Lewin gives a speech at the closing ceremony of the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) in Montreal, Canada, on August 2, 2022. Photo by Marcus Rose/IAS.

The five-day conference in Montreal witnessed several key announcements in the HIV/AIDS fight, including two adults in long-term remission from HIV after stopping treatment. It also celebrated Botswana for surpassing the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, virtually eliminating HIV in a country once listed as the heart of the epidemic.

It was also announced that generic versions of long-acting injectable cabotegravir as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV will be made available in 90 low and low-middle income countries, where over 70 per cent of all new HIV infections occurred in 2020, following a deal signed between Medicines Patent Pool and ViiV Healthcare.

Despite making headways, Dr Lewin said it was important to recognise that “not all progress is equal”. It was made clear at the start of AIDS 2022 that progress made against AIDS was faltering “dangerously”, with 1.5 million new infections recorded last year, three times the global target, amid dwindling resources dwindling and widening inequalities.

“While we celebrate the steps forward fueled by science and activism, we know that many countries are moving in the other direction. Our work is not done until every region of the world and every community has access to prevention, treatment and care,” Dr Lewin said.

Dr Adeeba, in her closing remarks at the AIDS 2022 conference, said she leaves Montreal re-energised, inspired, and humbled, taking cues from countries like Botswana, which has surpassed the 95-95-95 goal of ending AIDS, and Rwanda that is well on its way to eliminating hepatitis C.

“I am inspired and humbled by colleagues at organisations such as the Alliance for Public Health, Ukraine and 100% Life, who despite the horrors of the invasion continue to deliver HIV prevention and treatment services.

“Door to door they want to ensure that these services continue in mobile vehicles. When they ran out of fuel, they went on bicycles. When their bicycles went missing, they went on foot. That, dear colleagues, is the epitome of commitment,” Dr Adeeba said.

“Most of all, I am inspired and humbled by individuals such as our young transgender doctors from Pakistan and Indonesia who have gone through so much to be where they are today – as young leaders advocating for the rights of transgender women in their respective countries.

“And Dr Hillary, orphaned at the age of seven, with four siblings all perinatally infected with HIV overcame the illness, hardships, and neglect to put himself through medical school and is now a young doctor educating youth on HIV in Uganda.

“These are just examples of colleagues from all over the world here with us in Montreal working with passion and commitment towards our shared cause.”

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