ICASA Honours Dr Matshidiso Moeti

ICASA Honours Dr Matshidiso Moeti

ICASA Honours Dr Matshidiso Moeti

The Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) secretariat, organizers of the International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa has awarded the World Health Organisation African Region (WHO-AFRO) Director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti the prestigious SAA Excellence award.

The award was handed to her during a plenary session at the International Conference for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted (STIs) in Africa (ICASA) conference running from December 4 to December 9, 2023, at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC).

Presenting the award, SAA president, Dr David Parirenyatwa said it was in appreciation for her dedicated years of leadership and a symbol of her personal and professional achievements.

“This is an honour to a friend who has dedicated her time and efforts to improve health outcomes for the African region. From the days of Ebola, Zika Virus, the Cholera outbreaks and even the HIV and AIDS epidemic, she has stood with us” said Dr. Parirenyatwa.

Dr. Moeti is a distinguished clinician who has served in leadership positions for more than 35 years within WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Botswana Ministry of Health. She was appointed WHO-AFRO Director on January 27, 2015, making her the first woman to hold that WHO Africa region directorship post.

In her acceptance speech following her award, Dr. Moeti said the award was a reminder of how she is not only the Director for WHO in the region but also a symbol of her connection to the African continent.

“I would like to express my profound thanks to the Society for AIDS in Africa, brothers, leaders, and different generations. I recall being a program manager from Botswana attending a conference that had been organised by SAA and how that has evolved. I am very humbled, thank you for this recognition of a girl who grew up in one of the most unequal societies in the world, South Africa where I originated from and migrated to Botswana in childhood,” said Dr Moeti.

She said she has strong connections to countries in the region and she was glad to be conferred with the Excellency award in Harare, a city where she has lived and also where her kids spent some of their childhood.

“What I would like to say is that the HIV movement in Africa has been an example and we and you have a lit to teach other areas of health and development response on the continent, so I have to commend you for that as well.

To date, Dr Moeti has been greatly recognised for her excellent service to humanity and has received accolades including membership of the United States National Academy of Medicine, an Honorary Fellowship of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA), an Honorary Fellowship from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ghana and Honoris Causa Doctorate by Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal.

Dr Moeti was named COVID-19 Heroine by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women Development as well as featured among the Women of 2020 in the Financial Times. She also received Special Recognition for African Health Leadership on COVID-19 from Amref Health Africa as well as a Global Health Equity Award from the Africa-American Institute.

According to her bio on the WHO website, under her leadership, tremendous progress has been made. Wild poliovirus was kicked out of Africa in 2020 – this is the second disease to be eradicated from the Region after smallpox 40 years ago. Investments in areas such as surveillance, training, innovation, community engagement and partnerships have improved the country’s capacities to prepare for and respond to health emergencies and outbreaks of diseases like COVID-19 and Ebola. More broadly, recognition of the need for strong and resilient health systems to manage external shocks, like health emergencies, is building. Most African countries are pursuing reforms to achieve Universal Health Coverage – to expand access to services with attention to equity and reaching the most vulnerable people.

Dr Moeti has worked with WHO for more than 20 years, and before this she worked with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) as Team Leader of the Africa and Middle East Desk in Geneva (1997–1999); with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as Regional Health Advisor for East and Southern Africa; and with Botswana’s Ministry of Health as a clinician and public health specialist.

She is renowned for having led WHO’s “3 by 5” Initiative in Africa at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, resulting in a significant increase in access to antiretroviral therapy among people living with HIV. This helped to shift HIV from a death sentence to a chronic illness in Africa.

Credit: Michael Gwarisa, HealthTimes, Zimbabwe

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