ICASA 2011 to Focus on Ownership, Commitment and Support to the AIDS Response in Africa. 4/12/11
This year’s conference theme: ‘Own, Scale-up and Sustain,’
The XVI International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2011) opened on Sunday 4 December in Addis Ababa. Delegates from across the world are convening in Ethiopia to discuss the HIV-related challenges faced by Africa, as well as future strategies for consolidation and development of national AIDS responses.
Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Meles Zenawi welcomed all participants and encouraged them to fully participate and share experiences than can contribute to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. The Prime Minister also recognized the important contribution of international partners in providing antiretroviral treatment, but he stressed that it is time for Africa to own the response. “We must urgently devise African led innovations to defeat HIV,” said Prime Minister Zenawi.
This year’s conference theme, ‘Own, Scale-up and Sustain,’ was selected to emphasize the need for increased country ownership and commitment in the AIDS response. Statements at the opening ceremony were made by former President of the United States of America George W. Bush, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, young women living with HIV, Melao Phillipus and Professor Robert Soudré, President of the Society for AIDS in Africa.
Mr Sidibé, in his key note, emphasized that 2012 would be a crucial year for the AIDS response. He welcomed the recent progress made in both scientific research and expanding access to HIV treatment, but also cautioned against losing ground as a result of the global financial crisis.
“We have seen unprecedented progress. But I am scared by unfolding events. We need to continue investing in areas where we are producing results,” said Mr Sidibé. “But to scale up and sustain the progress made, we must create a new framework for Africa, based on country ownership, shared responsibility, mutual accountability and social justice,” he added.
President Bush, who is currently travelling through Africa to promote the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, made a stop in Ethiopia to participate in the conference. In his address, President Bush praised the Obama Administration for their continued support to the global AIDS response. “We are breaking the grip of AIDS—but this only the beginning. There is a lot of work to be done,” said President Bush. “In moments of economic crisis there can be a temptation for Americans to disengage from the world. But we cannot retreat. There is no greater priority than saving a human life.”
We must create a new framework for Africa, based on country ownership, shared responsibility, mutual accountability and social justice
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé
Representing young people, Ms Phillipus denounced the nonexistence of comprehensive sexual education and HIV services adapted for adolescents and young people in most African countries. She highlighted the heterogeneity of youth groups and their varied needs which are not being addressed. She said that the needs of young parents are not the same as those of students or young professionals. “I challenge all delegates to spell out what actions they will take to empower the youth,” concluded Ms Phillipus.
Sessions, workshops and community development
ICASA 2011 is intended to provide a forum to link political and national leaders, the scientific community, practitioners, communities, civil societies, the private sector and partners to scale-up and sustain the AIDS response. The conference is organizing a series of plenary and satellite sessions, workshops and community development programmes that are designed to generate support for the AIDS response, discuss common values and share best practices.
In addition, the conference will also host the community dialogue space and the human rights networking zone. The community dialogue space is dedicated to highlighting stories of grassroots achievements in AIDS responses and the challenges faced by community-led action around the world. The human rights networking zone is an open space to share good practices around HIV, TB and human rights in Africa as well as to discuss HIV and human rights challenges that are common to many countries on the continent. The networking zone sessions will cover key topics such as the criminalization of HIV transmission and exposure, coercive practices in sexual and reproductive health, including HIV testing, coerced sterilization and termination of pregnancy.
Hosted by the government of Ethiopia, the international partners for ICASA 2011 include the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), as well as its Cosponsors the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF); and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).The conference will run until December 8.