ICASA Conference Kicks Off in Kigali

20th ICASA Conference, Kigali
President Kagame opens the 20th ICASA Conference in Kigali, Rwanda

Over 10,000 delegates are convening at the 20th International conference on AIDs and STIs in Africa (ICASA), which kicked off on Monday in Kigali, Rwanda and is set to run up to December 7th 2019. The commencement of the conference coincides with World Aids Day, which is observed globally on December 1st. The conference themed “AIDS-FREE AFRICA- Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership” is the largest gathering on HIV/AIDS on the African continent. It brings together stakeholders engaged in response efforts including policymakers, community leaders, activists, scientists and researchers, people living with the virus, pharmaceuticals and the media, among others.

HIV/AIDs continues to be a key public health concern in the African region. The conference hopes to tackle a number of pertinent issues, which will aid the efforts in the fight against the disease in Africa. According to the World Health Organization, the continent is home to just 17% of the world’s population but accounts for more than two-thirds, or 67%, of those infected by HIV/AIDS worldwide.

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Marked strides and concerted efforts globally have been made to align with the Sustainable Development Goals targets to end the disease by 2030 in the last decade. Data shows that fewer people overall are contracting the disease and dying from it. According to UNAIDS, AIDS-related mortality in the eastern and southern regions of Africa declined by 44% between 2010 and 2018. By comparison, AIDS-related deaths in western and central Africa declined by 29% in the same period. 

Significant challenges however, remain. Eastern and southern Africa hosts 54% of the world’s people living with HIV. South Africa alone manages the world’s largest anti-retroviral therapy program, which aims to provide treatment for 19% of the world’s people living with HIV. While the program has been effective, 46% of people living with HIV in South Africa had unsuppressed viral loads in 2018. In North Africa, AIDS-related deaths rose by 9% in the period between 2010 and 2018, defying the general downward mortality trend in other regions of Africa.

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