The 16th International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) and PMTCT

Recently, World HIV/AIDS day was commemorated in Ethiopia with workshops for the people with free HIV tests. But what was even more notable was that Addis Ababa was the host for the 16th International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA). ICASA is a forum that was established with the sole intent of having Africans learning from one another and to have the issues that needed to be addressed in the fight against HIV/AIDS addressed by Africans themselves. So far, it has allowed for 15 conferences to be held all over the continent where leaders and communities have been able to keep the fight against the disease going strong.

Notably present at the conference’s inauguration, held at the Millennium Exhibition Hall, were ex-president of the United States – George W. Bush and his family, ex-president of Botswana – Festus Mogae, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia- Meles Zenawi, Dr. Michel Sidibe – UNAIDS Executive Director and other leaders of societies and religious heads as well as other stakeholders in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

In his speech, President George Bush said that the whole world was up fighting against HIV/AIDS because the disease was not a problem of just one country or continent but one that was a threat to all humanity. He said the saddest victims by far were the children that were born to HIV positive mothers who themselves were infected due to mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of the disease during childbirth, because they were the ones that could be helped the most. But, he went on to mention that in the past decade alone the lives of 450,000 children were saved by implementing effective prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) techniques. He honored the Ethiopian Minister of Health by calling him “one of the world’s greatest ministers of health” for his part in making Ethiopia one of 22 African countries that were able to slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In turn, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi also re-iterated that effectively eliminating MTCT transmission is an achievable goal. He said that PMTCT coverage still remains low in Sub-Saharan Africa. He also mentioned that it was necessary to keep on working even harder as the goals that have been so far achieved were very fragile. And finally, he mentioned that the fight should concentrate on how to “Grow, Scale up and Sustain” the global effort. He hoped that this ICASA conference would help in exchanging ideas between the various levels of leaderships on the continent.

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