The International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) officially launched at Kigali Convention Centre on 2 December 2019. The conference aims to assess the contribution of community involvement, political leadership, and scientific progress toward eliminating HIV/AIDS on the African continent. Researchers, representatives of key partners organizations, political leaders, key population groups, and more than 7,000 delegates were in attendance from more than 150 countries worldwide.
In his opening remarks His Excellency, President Paul Kagame reminded the delegates of the noble reason of their presence in ICASA. “We are here to share experience and knowledge, but also to deepen our collective solidarity to fight this devastating epidemic together,” he said.
For achieving an AIDS-free Africa, President Kagame shared key factors that are likely to fuel success. He mentioned that open dialogue is first and foremost. “When it comes to Sexually Transmitted Infections, stigma and silence are the real killers as much as the underlying viruses and shame discourages people living with HIV from learning and accepting their status and accessing available treatment,” he remarked. The Head of State continued by saying that ICASA should break all the taboos that hinders early treatment.
Rwanda has made considerable progress towards controlling the HIV epidemic over the last two decades. The achievements that Rwanda has made toward providing good care to people living with HIV has been generously mentioned by the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This is really the place where we should celebrate World AIDS Day,” he said during the celebration of the World AIDS Day in Kigali on December 1, 2019. He added that “Rwanda is one of a few countries to reach the 90-90-90 target prior to year 2020.”
ICASA puts key populations at high priority in developing HIV elimination policies and guidelines. In her welcome note, Minister of Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba stressed the importance of keeping key populations at the center of the fight. “In Rwanda our fight against HIV and AIDS epidemic is grounded in the principle that those affected should be at the center of response,” she said. Minister Gashumba also highlighted that the integration of HIV testing services into maternal services has led to more equitable access to prevention.
The opening of the conference coincided with World AIDS Day. ICASA delegates participated in the mass sport, known as Car Free Day, along with Kigali residents to mark that important day.
ICASA is the biggest conference on AIDS and STIS that takes place once every two years, shifting from French and English-speaking countries in Africa. It comes to Rwanda for its 20th edition and has brought scientists, political leaders, influential leaders, and key population communities to discuss and express views on how to better politics, innovation, and how communities should assume their responsibilities toward an AIDS free Africa.
On the sidelines of ICASA, other high profile meetings are scheduled to take place, including the meeting of African leaders that His Excellency, President Paul Kagame attended, along with His Excellency, President Filipe Nyusi of the Republic of Mozambique, as well as other high profile Government officials and global health leaders.