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The long-awaited International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) gets underway at Kigali Convention Centre today, December 2, through December 7.
ICASA is the largest gathering on HIV/AIDS on the African continent, which brings together stakeholders in response efforts including policymakers, community leaders, activists, scientists and researchers, people living with the virus, pharmaceuticals, and the media, among others.
The Kigali edition of the biennial summit, which has attracted some 10,000 delegates, takes a day after the international community marked the annual World AIDS Day under the theme, “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community.”
This theme could not have come at a better time with countries now taking stock of progress made towards the global 90-90-90 target for the year 2020, and a decade ahead of the zero-new HIV infections target.
The conference comes weeks after Rwanda’s latest update on the HIV/AIDS status, which showed that the country had made significant headways in containing the virus, although a lot more still needs to be done.
The Rwanda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment, released in October, showed that the country had already surpassed the UNAIDS’ 2020 target to have achieved viral load suppression at 73 per cent – the country has reached 76 per cent in this aspect. But the survey showed that men were lagging behind in this aspect, at only 65 per cent – although prevalence rate among men is lower, at 2.2 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent for women.
ICASA 2019 is indeed an opportunity for all stakeholders, particularly governments, to compare notes, learn from best practices and renew their commitment to scaling up and accelerating HIV/AIDS response.
In particular, delegates should genuinely discuss how best to make HIV/AIDS fight more inclusive and non-discriminatory if genuine, holistic progress is to be made. It is critically important that thorough, innovative measures are devised to ensure that no one is left behind in this effort if an AIDS-free world is to be realized.