||Ibekwe Alexnder [ profile ]
ICASA 2011 kicks off in a Colorful Ceremony
Dec 5th, 2011 - 02:45:43
State and Government, former presidents, first ladies, members of parliaments,
ministers, high level representatives of UN agencies, donors, members of the
diplomatic corps, renowned scientists, NGOs, PLHIV, and civil society gathered yesterday at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa for the opening ceremony of the
16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in
Africa (ICASA 2011). The five-day conference under the theme ‘Own, Scale-up and
Sustain’ is expected to actively engage participants through high-level plenary
sessions, satellite sessions, skill building sessions, poster exhibition and
various side events.
In welcoming the participants, Dr. Yigermu Abebe, President of ICASA 2011 said,
“Welcome to the 16th ICASA, which has been organized by the Government of
Ethiopia in conjunction with the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), various
institutional and community partners as well as the private sector.”
ICASA 2011 takes place at a pivotal time - thirty years since the first case of
AIDS was detected; ten years since the landmark UN General Assembly Special
Session on AIDS, where world leaders declared AIDS as a “global emergency” and
called for an “urgent, coordinated and sustained response” to the epidemic; and
ten years since the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and other
President of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA), Professor Robert Soudre said,
“Once again the forefront stakeholders in the response to HIV and AIDS in
Africa are meeting in Addis Ababa to address our common enemy - the HIV
epidemic and related diseases”.
The Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) Council has selected Ethiopia to host the
16th ICASA, based on interest expressed by the Ethiopian Government to host the
Conference, as well as meeting a set of criteria including adequate logistics,
security, communications, accommodation and conference venue. Ethiopia
officially accepted the offer during a signing ceremony of the Memorandum of
Understanding between the SAA and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,
represented by the Federal Ministry of Health in July 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria.
In recent years, significant progress has been made in the AIDS response in
sub-Saharan Africa. The total number of new HIV infections in the region has
declined by more than 26%, from 2.6 million [2.4 million-2.8 million] to 1.9
million [1.7 million-2.1 million] since the peak of the epidemic in 1997.
Confirming this, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said, “Over the past
decade, Africa has made remarkable progress in its HIV response”.
Never the less, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by
HIV. In 2010, an estimated 68% of all people living with HIV resided in
sub-Saharan Africa, a region with only 12% of the global population.
“With strengthened political will and increased resources, I am confident that
countries across the continent will reach our common goal of zero new HIV
infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” Dr. Sidibé
In his key note address on behalf of the people and Government of Ethiopia at
the official opening, H.E. Meles Zenawi, Ethiopian Prime Minister, said, “It is
my distinct pleasure to welcome all delegates to Addis Ababa and the 16th
International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2011). We are
honored to be hosting this major international gathering at this critical
juncture in the countdown to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Three decades following the discovery of AIDS, ICASA 2011 provides an important
opportunity to take stock of the significant progress made as well as the
challenges we still face in reversing the epidemic in countries across our
“This year’s theme is a particularly fitting one at this critical time. Against
the backdrop of growing global economic uncertainty, it is vital that African
countries develop innovative and sustainable strategies for mobilizing new
resources—human, intellectual, and material — with a view to fortifying and
sustaining our response to the epidemic over the coming years. Indeed, the
challenge now is for Africa to Own, Scale-up and Sustain the fight and build on
the successes of the past to finally turn the tide of the epidemic through
greater containment and significantly lower new infections,” the prime minister
A decade ago, HIV prevalence among the 15 to 24 age group in Ethiopia was
12.4%. Today, this figure has stabilized at 2.4%. In 2005, fewer than 1,000
Ethiopians had access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Today, over
333 thousand Ethiopians, an estimated 66%, of those in need are receiving ART.
Dr. Yigeremu Abebe, President of ICASA 2011, highlighted the significance of
the conference for Africa and Ethiopia. “This year’s ICASA promises to be
unique in that awards will be given to the best abstracts presented by young
investigators below the age of 35. This recognition aims to encourage
scientific research in Africa, which is currently facing challenges,” he said.
Early in the day The ICASA community village was also open. The community
village is a melting pot of all cultures to informally exchange ideas and ways
forward not only in the HIV and AIDS response, but also other socioeconomic
At the official opening, H.E Ato Kuma Demekisa expressed his warm welcome to
the delegates and wished a successful deliberation over the conference period.
Similarly, the former president of USA – Mr. George Bush Jr. addressed the
Mr. Bush was also recognized with an award for his support in the HIV and AIDS
response. On the occasion H.E Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopian Minister of Health,
expressed his gratitude to Mr. Bush. This was followed by President Bush
receiving his award from H.E Ato Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister.
Hon. Ibekwe Alexander
Director, Health Link Organization
Chiarman Director of Health National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN)
South East Coordinator, Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN)
State Coordinator Youth nework on HIV/AIDS, Population and Development (NYNETHA)
alexodegreat.tigblog.org, www.apyin.net anambra (at) apyin.net alexibekwe (at) gmail.com
Poverty is not Lack of Money, But it is lack of knowledge and Ability. Reject it