Getting to an AIDS-free Future—Now More Than Ever
The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) officially kicked off in Cape Town, South Africa, on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. It was filled with fanfare and moving tributes to former South African President Nelson Mandela.
In a news release, ICASA officials said, “As we prepare for the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) we are reminded of the immeasurable contribution Mr. Mandela made to the cause. Without his input and guidance many of the successes we have achieved would not have materialised. His legacy will live forever because of his commitment in the many years before his passing.”
Attendees were wowed by acrobatic performances, singing and dancing, dramatic readings, and appearances by local activists, government officials, and celebrities. Performer and Goodwill Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Annie Lennox reminded the crowd about Pres. Mandela’s commitment to an AIDS-free future. “We owe it to Mandela to ensure that his dream is realized and fulfilled,” said Lennox.
In addition to Lennox, speakers included the First Lady of Zambia, Christine Kaseba-Sata; Deborah von Zinkelnagel, acting U.S. global AIDS coordinator; Michele Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS; and Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe.
“Consolidating the gains we have made will not be enough—a comprehensive, integrated and community-centered approach which seeks to address the social and structural factors that increase vulnerability to ill health is the key to a sustainable discourse,” said Motlanthe.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Now More Than Ever: Targeting Zero.” Sidibe told the crowd to “make zero the legacy of Mandela.” He also highlighted significant gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, reminding the crowd that since 2001 the number of AIDS-related deaths has been reduced by more than 74 percent and people on the continent receiving treatment has increased by 800 percent. He said Africans should play a vital role in shaping an AIDS-free future. “Africa should not be afraid of calling for ending AIDS by achieving our dream of zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero deaths due to AIDS.”
Held every two years, ICASA is the largest international HIV/AIDS conference to take place in Africa. It is chaired by Professor Robert Soudre, president of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) and co-chaired by Professor Ian Sanne, CEO of Right Care and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
Experts from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) will give oral presentations, moderate conference events, and exhibit a variety of educational posters and abstracts. Stay tuned to the EGPAF blog to get the latest news and updates from the conference. And click here to view a list of presentations by EGPAF staff.