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Part One: Reflections from the 11th SA AIDS Conference

This is the first part of a three-part series showcasing the important thoughts shared by Aurum delegates at the 11th SA AIDS Conference in Durban. The conference brought together a diverse group of people dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS and working towards a generation free from AIDS by 2030. The conference, themed "Act, Connect and End the Epidemic," provided a vital platform for sharing knowledge, innovations, and ideas. 

During the conference, Aurum delegates shared their reflections, offering valuable insights into the fight against HIV/AIDS. They highlighted the crucial role of collaboration, sharing knowledge, and taking collective action. Their reflections demonstrate the dedication and passion of Aurum staff in making a real impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Let's now delve into some of the standout reflections shared by these remarkable conference participants: 

Lebogang Isidoro, a Recruitment and Retention Team Leader focusing on Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) in PrEP studies, stressed the significance of attending the conference to stay informed about her peers' work. Isidoro emphasized the power of information sharing and leveraging available data to effectively contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, she underscored the importance of empowering youth by providing them with a platform to share their experiences and perspectives, specifically regarding issues such as PrEP usage among adolescent girls and young women. 

Malebo Mahapa, a Laboratory Technologist at the Tembisa Biomedical Research Lab, highlighted how the conference expanded her understanding of the impact of laboratory work on HIV/AIDS research. Mahapa expressed hope in the decline of the HIV epidemic since 1994 and stressed the necessity of including key populations in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Additionally, she called for continued attention and action on critical issues such as gender-based violence and the intersection between patriarchy and HIV. 

Joan Nyanhongo, a Research Pharmacist, shared her reflections on the conference's impact on her daily work. The presentations on participant adherence and research studies ignited her interest in exploring new areas of research beyond her current role. Nyanhongo emphasised the importance of continuous improvement in public service and patient care, as exemplified by the studies and discussions at the conference. She also suggested enhancing time management for conference presenters to ensure smoother sessions. 

Marelize Collignon, a Regulatory Manager, had her belief in the importance of Aurum's work in clinical research reaffirmed during the conference. Collignon gained a renewed perspective on the profound impact of HIV on communities and the world at large. Understanding the experiences of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS was underscored as crucial, alongside the ongoing need for collective commitment in the fight against the epidemic. Collignon also proposed increased involvement and exposure from contract research organizations (CROs) to foster collaboration. 

Lindelwa Hlangulela, Head of Laboratories at Aurum, brought attention to the direct impact of lab work on clinical trials and treatment outcomes. While acknowledging the availability of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Hlangulela expressed concerns about its low uptake among young populations. To triumph over HIV/AIDS, she emphasised the necessity of collective commitment and urged for more presentations on laboratory work at future conferences. 

Tanya Nielson, the Managing Director of the Clinical Research Division, highlighted the positive influence of the conference on networking, research ideas, collaboration, and team motivation. Nielson shared key insights obtained, including the endorsement of the U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) campaign by the Department of Health. 

These reflections from Aurum staff offer profound insights into the challenges and opportunities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They underscore the importance of collaboration, knowledge sharing, empowerment, continuous improvement, and collective commitment.  

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