Just days after World AIDS Day, the 19th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) has opened in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
At the opening ceremony, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé implored the audience not to let ongoing political and social troubles threaten the many achievements made in the AIDS response. In his speech, he laid out key priorities, including ensuring that women and adolescents be better protected from HIV, and demanded more space for civil society, crediting civil society’s huge impact in the AIDS response.
ICASA, a biennial gathering that this year will be held from 4 to 9 December, brings together people working in the field of HIV, as well as leaders, people living with HIV, activists and representatives of civil society. In addition, researchers from around the world will share the latest scientific advances to develop strategies to further HIV prevention and treatment options. More than 4000 delegates from more than 125 countries have gathered for the event.
UNAIDS is hosting several sessions during the conference to discuss the western and central Africa HIV catch-up plan. Other events organized by UNAIDS at ICASA include sessions on reinvigorating HIV prevention following the Prevention Coalition initiative, innovative partnerships to drive male engagement, ending the AIDS epidemic among children and young women under the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free framework and achieving the Fast-Track Targets in cities.
Abidjan is playing host to ICASA for the second time. In the ICASA held in 1997, the then French President, Jacques Chirac, denounced the injustices experienced by people living with HIV in Africa.