by Trevor Njorge and Brian Macharia
The International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa (ICASA) is one of the largest HIV/AIDS conferences in the world. This year’s event brought together tens of thousands of human rights activists, scientists, program implementers, government officials, members of academia and community members from across the continent. The conference provides an important opportunity for young people, people living with HIV and key populations to discuss, share knowledge and best practices, and design innovative and practical solutions of ending the HIV epidemic in Africa.
The 20th annual ICASA was held this year in Kigali, Rwanda with the theme of creating an “AIDS Free Africa” and emphasized the need for “Innovation, Community and Political Leadership” in the global HIV response. The conference advocated for concerted efforts in scaling up interventions and outlined steps for meaningfully and proactively engaging communities in the design and implementation of strategies towards epidemic control. Panels ranged from issues such as the role of Governments and development partners in increasing their investments towards the HIV response to the eradication of barriers impeding availability and access to HIV services.
One of the highlights of the conference was the opening remarks delivered by H.E Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda. “Good politics and governance have everything to do with health” he remarked, “There is no substitute or building and inclusive and caring society. Citizens both young and old must see themselves as stakeholders with a future to look forward to.” Kigali was a perfect location for the conference, and organizers worked closely with local institutions to ensure the safety and security of LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable populations during the course of the event.
A bold and firm message of inclusion and diversity encompassed the opening remarks at the Pre-conference held by Accountability International. The plenary session highlighted the social, political, economic and legal context around which LGBTQ+ persons and Key Populations in Africa operate. The session celebrated the resilience of communities who continue to fight against oppression and persecution while trying to acces HIV services or even just live their authentic lives.
Trevor Njoroge moderated a satellite event on the interface between community leadership in HIV Programming with activists, funders and thought leaders. The aim of this session was to promote learning and analysis on how community resilience and resources that have contributed to strategies that buffer communities from adversities linked to stigma and discrimination in relation to HIV/AIDS.
Brian Macharia was a panelist in a satellite discussion at the Community Village discussing PEPFAR and the COP process including crucial dates and how communities can engage in the PEPFAR processes in their respective countries. At this session, Brian highlighted the PEPFAR COP calendar and its significance, as well as the significance of data and evidence in informing the strategies interventions that would be factored into the COP.