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The 20th Edition of ICASA in Kigali

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The 20th Edition of International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) officially launched in Kigali. ICASA 2019 is organised by The Society for AIDS In Africa (SAA), the custodian of ICASA, and the Government of Rwanda.

The conference themed “AIDS FREE AFRICA – Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership” engages the whole continent and all stakeholders in the Post-SDG Framework. The conference will convene thousands of leaders, activists, scientists, researchers, community members, and key populations from across the globe to discuss efforts towards ending AIDS by   2030.

In his opening remarks, President Kagame called for open dialogue and the lift of taboos. “Open dialogue saves lives. When it comes to sexually-transmitted infections, stigma and silence are real killers, just as much as the underlying viruses. ICASA exists in order to break down the taboos that impede prevention and early treatment. You are the ones to speak loudly, and clearly. We have come too far in this struggle, to do otherwise.”

ICASA 2019 will serve as a platform to take stock of the challenges of UNAIDS global 90-90-90 targets and pave the way for a new and efficient innovation towards a generation without AIDS in Africa. In Rwanda, 99% of pregnant women are tested for HIV. 95% of our children are vaccinated and early infant diagnosis is fully integrated into these services. As per the UNAIDS recent report, 97% of HIV positive people in Rwanda are on treatment and 90% are suppressing their viral loads”

Political will from governments to negotiate with drug manufacturers has been suggested as one of the ways that African countries can reduce prices of viral hepatitis drugs, and be able to save many lives lost to the disease.

World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows an estimated 257 million people living with chronic hepatitis B and 71 million people living with chronic hepatitis C worldwide.

WHO estimates that chronic viral hepatitis is now the second biggest killer after tuberculosis and in Africa, it affects over 70 million people (60 million with Hepatitis B and 10 million with Hepatitis C), and the disease affects the most youthful and productive Africans, causing catastrophic financial liability in the treatment of advanced liver disease and emotional distress and stigmatisation.

Sharing Rwanda’s experience, Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana the Director-General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said that reduction of prices does not only require funds alone but partnerships and negotiations.

“The beginning for us was more of talking to people who had the medicine. We had the patients on this side, and they had the medicine on the other side. We were in-between so as that we make sure that the medicine gets to the people when they need it,” Nsanzimana said.

On the sideline of the 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), a session to discuss the accessibility of services for people living with disability was held.

The main focus was enabling people with disabilities to access HIV/AIDS services.

Presenters were dominantly people with different disabilities who challenged the audience to acknowledge that they can play big role in societies when well empowered.

In Africa, HIV prevalence is 2-4 times higher among people with disabilities.

The trend is higher because PWDs are likely to face sexual violence. In addition, many of them do not know about their HIV status and findings presented during the session indicated that only 30 percent disabled people with HIV/AIDS are aware.

According to UNAIDS, people with disability are 2.21 times more likely to get infected than ordinary people. 300 million people in Africa live with disabilities with a quarter of them being school-aged children.

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