The Society for AIDS in Africa was founded in 1989 at the fourth International Symposium on AIDS and Associated Cancers in Africa (now ICASA) held in Marseille France by a group of African scientist, activists and advocates in response to this epidemic. The establishment of the Society was the effect of the agitations of some African scientists for the conference to be organized on the African soil. These agitations had begun the previous year (1988) at the third meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. The conference had until then been organized outside the African continent. The cause of these scientists was supported by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Peter Piot. The Society is non-governmental and not-for profit.
At the 1990 conference held in DR Congo, an executive committee was established to oversee the establishment of the society and to coordinate subsequent ICASA meetings. The society was officially registered in Nairobi, Kenya.
Founding members of the SAA are: Prof. Mboup from Senegal, Prof. Kaptue from Cameroon, Dr.Sam Okware from Uganda, Prof. Soyinka from Nigeria, Prof. Kadio and Prof. Gershey-Damet from Cote d Ivore, Dr. Patrick Kenya and Dr. Owili from Kenya, Dr. M Pelle from Congo Brazzaville, Dr. Kalenganyi and Dr Kapita from DR Congo, Prof. Mhalu from Tanzania, Prof. Luo from Zambia, Prof. Latif from Zimbabwe, Dr. Abdulrahman Sow from Mauritania, Dr. Kanki P from USA, Prof. Abdellah Benslimane from Morocco, Dr. Fatia Mohamoud from Sudan and Prof. Ahmed Zribi from Tunisia.
The first election of regional delegates was held in October 1990 in Kinshasa, DR Congo. The selection was done according to the WHO regional classification of sub-Saharan Africa namely, Region 1, Region 2, Region 3 and Emco.
- The first elected representatives of Region 1 were: Prof Soulemane Mboup from Senegal, Prof Femi Soyinka from Nigeria, Prof A. Kadio and Dr. Gershy-Damet from Cote d Ivoire.
- The elected representatives of Region 2 were: Prof L. Kaptue from Cameroon, Dr. Dundu Malaki Owili from Kenya, Dr. Pierre M pelle from Congo Brazzaville and Dr. Karengenyi of the former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo)
- In Region Three, the representatives were: Prof. Fred S. Mhalu from Tanzania, Prof Nkandu Luo from Zambia and Prof. L. Latif from Zimbwabwe.
- In Region 3 (EMCO), the elected representatives were: Prof. Abdellah Benslimane of Morocco who later became the first president of SAA, Dr. Fatia Mohamoud from Sudan and Prof Ahmed Zribi from Tunisia.
Also involved in the formative process of the society were Prof. K. Kallings from Sweden, Prof. Peter Piot and Dr. Abdulrahman Sow from Geneva, Dr. Patrick Kenya and Dr. N. Angata from Kenya who later became the first Secretary General of SAA.
During the SAA inaugural meeting in Kinshasa, Nairobi was selected as the SAA secretariat headquarters and the society was officially registered there.
At the Morocco meeting in 1993, a unanimous decision of biennially organized ICASA was adopted by the SAA council. ICASAs were held biannually before the Morocco meeting. The first biennial ICASA was thus held in Kampala in 1994 and thereafter in Cote d’Ivoire in 1997, Zambia in1999, Burkina Faso in 2001, Kenya in 2003, Nigeria in 2005 and Senegal in 2008, Ethiopia in 2011, South Africa in 2013, Zimbabwe in 2015 and Cote d’Ivoire in 2017.