The Federation of Infectious Diseases Societies of Southern Africa

Infectious diseases have an impact on all levels of society. At one end of the spectrum, tuberculosis and HIV cause severe disease, have significant public health implications and have a major impact on the poorest people. At the other extreme, rhinoviruses (causing the “common cold”), although considered fairly innocuous, affect all members of society regardless of socioeconomic status, cause morbidity through the precipitation of asthma and have an economic impact through loss of work.

A neglected area often compounded by lack of infrastructure and exacerbated by behavioural practices is infection prevention and control. Although general standards are reasonable, outbreaks of healthcare-associated infections occur regularly in South Africa, often being reported in the media. While these often represent a break in a specific aseptic technique, there is a background of nosocomial sepsis often attributed to inadequate attention to basic principles such as hand hygiene.

Increasing antimicrobial resistance is of major concern and an enormous challenge to contain, both in community and healthcare-associated infections. The South African Society of Clinical Microbiology (SASCM) representing private and public sector provides valuable data on antibiotic resistance patterns in South Africa, in collaboration with NICD/NHLS.

The Federation was formed from an amalgamation of existing societies representing infectious diseases. In 2020, Federation member societies include the Infectious Diseases Society of Southern Africa (IDSSA), Infection Control Society of South Africa (ICSSA), South African Society for Clinical Microbiology (SASCM) and Southern African Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases (SASPID). The societies maintain their individual areas of expertise and identities yet share administrative support.

Benefits of the Federation include a single journal (SAJID) and joint biennial conferences to facilitate scientific and professional interaction. Furthermore, the Federation has a responsibility to guide appropriate treatment of infectious diseases by publishing guidelines.

Current Federation membership stands at approximately 600 healthcare and allied workers. A major challenge for the Federation is to attract a broader diversity of healthcare professionals and to increase membership in under-represented areas of rural South Africa and neighbouring African countries.

All infectious diseases require a holistic approach for successful management. Therefore, the Federation aims to contribute to a more integrated approach towards infectious diseases in Southern Africa.