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Letters from the Director: 2020 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS

2020 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS


On October 19 - 21, thousands of registrants participated in the 24th Annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA), hosted by NMAC. In keeping with public health guidelines and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, NMAC pivoted from its original plan to conduct the USCHA in Puerto Rico and held the USCHA 2020 on a virtual platform. This was a significant undertaking, as the event included multiple plenaries, 85 workshops and institutes, an exhibit hall, a jobs fair, and performances.

Responding to the confluence of challenges that our nation is facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the HIV epidemic, systemic racism, and underlying health inequities, NMAC structured the conference to uplift and unite attendees. Resurrecting a past theme, NMAC titled the event “Family Reunion 2,” emphasizing the importance of providing extra support and comfort to each other and to community during these especially difficult times. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of AIDS Research (OAR) was honored to participate in this impactful event and present updates on the NIH efforts to combat HIV, COVID-19, and health disparities.

The OAR led two sessions:

  1. The Impact of NIH HIV/AIDS Research and Discovery – Follow on Conversations from AIDS 2020, which focused on the landmark HIV/AIDS research that NIH has conducted for nearly 40 years, from innovative basic science discoveries through the pipeline to preclinical studies and novel clinical trials. The workshop highlighted NIH HIV/AIDS research at the intersections of prevention, treatment and disparities across the lifespan. Multidisciplinary scientists shared unique insights, research findings, and experiences to improve understanding of how the global and domestic HIV epidemics can inform each other and accelerate epidemic control. The following speakers presented, followed by a panel discussion and question and answer session.


  1. NIH Stakeholder Engagement in the Era of COVID-19 and Social Justice Movements – Priorities for FY2021, which provided information on current opportunities from the NIH HIV/AIDS research program in view of the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and the racial justice movement. Along with colleagues from other NIH Institutes and Centers, I provided an overview of the NIH HIV strategic goals, priority areas, and research efforts that are planned for the coming year and in response to the current environment. The following NIH colleagues joined me for this presentation:

The USCHA’s Closing Plenary provided a special forum for federal leaders to answer questions posed by NMAC staff on HIV, COVID-19, systemic racism, and their intersection. On behalf of OAR, I was delighted to answer questions pertaining to NIH research and share some of the following highlights.

The NIH continues to place a high priority on ensuring the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. The Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program and the Institutional Development Award Program are two such examples. Building trust with communities highly impacted by HIV is another high priority.

Notably, there is a bidirectional dimension to the HIV and COVID-19 intersection: HIV research findings have informed scientific contributions to address COVID-19, and the international experience and perspectives inherent to the HIV research enterprise have provided this framework for our nation’s public health response to COVID-19:

  • Engage communities and build trust;

  • Implement strategies to recruit and retain diverse, and vulnerable populations for participation in research protocols;

  • Design culturally tailored interventions;

  • Understand and appreciate the importance of resilience and stigma; and

  • Use intersectional and behavioral frameworks to structure research.

Conversely, lessons learned from COVID-19 will certainly benefit the HIV field and the larger biomedical research arena. COVID-19 has accelerated widespread use of telemedicine, point-of-care in the field, and the quick ramp up of clinical trials and development of novel diagnostic platforms.

We look forward to a time in the future when our work on COVID-19 is complete, so we can refocus our full attention on HIV and discuss the many lessons learned in-person with our friends and colleagues at the USCHA.

To learn more, I encourage you to view the OAR presentation NIH Stakeholder Engagement in the Era of COVID-19 and Social Justice Movements – Priorities for FY 2021 and other USCHA 2020 videos that NMAC has made available to the public.


Maureen M. Goodenow, Ph.D.
Associate Director for AIDS Research and
Director, Office of AIDS Research
National Institutes of Health

This page last reviewed on November 3, 2022