ICASA 2023: It’s time for Zim to shine

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More than 12 000 delegates from across the globe are expected in Zimbabwe to attend the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) in December next year.

ICASA has so far been hosted in 15 countries with more than 100 000 direct participants.

Last year the global Aids and STIs symposium was hosted by South Africa with 4 025 delegates in attendance while 1 238 scholarships were awarded to people across the globe to attend the conference.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ICASA awarded 1 144 scholarship recipients virtual access to the conference.

The host country should show commitment to providing financial support, the conference venue with capacity of plenary rooms of 5 000 seats with at least seven breakaway rooms with capacity from 150 to 1 500 seats.

Among the requirements for hosting ICASA are strong government support, including financial commitment and political.

In terms of finances, ICASA gets a large chunk of financial support from the host country, participants also  pay registration fees, organisations that want to exhibit pay exhibition fees, SAA bankrolls the conference while organisations that wants to do session pay.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has since given the green light to hosting of the global Aids symposium.

“Drawing from our experience of hosting ICASA 2015, rest assured that the nation will once again deliver a memorable conference,” Mnangagwa said this when he signed the ICASA Memorandum of Understanding with SAA officials at State House last week.

“To this end, all relevant sectors will begin to work for this objective.”

SAA treasurer Morenike Oluwatoyin Ukpong said organising ICASA was all about pride and boon for the host nation.

“The ICASA 2023 shall be strong on mobilising for domestic funding’s of the HIV response and health systems strengthening,” Ukpong said.

“There is no better place to push this forward than Zimbabwe.

“Society of Aids in Africa (SAA) is a platform of Africa for Africa and there is an increasing move to build local capacity to address local needs as there is nothing as powerful and transformative.

 “I would like to make a special call to my constituency, the community to once again do what we are best known for which is to engage with all activities of SAA leading to December 4, 2023.

“Let’s help keep all stake holders on track and help mobilize communities to become members so that you can have your voices heard in the decisions being made by the board.”

ICASA has been organised for 30 years now to mitigate the impact of HIV and Aids, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis and malaria.

SAA president David Parirenyatwa said ICASA would embrace other emerging pandemics like cancer and Covid-19.

“ICASA 2023 will embrace TB, malaria and other emerging pandemics including COVID-19. I must also say that cancer is now included in HIV and AIDS response in pursuit of inclusivity,” Parirenyatwa said.

“In the recent past, focus was on Covid-19, but there is a need to refocus on HIV to achieve the goal of ending Aids by 2030.”

National Aids Council director of communications Medeline Dube said as the coordinating body for HIV and Aids in Zimbabwe, they were ceased with the opportunity when the ICASA 2023 bid was being called for.

“We needed to host the ceremony even if we had hosted it in 2015,” Dube said.

“ICASA 2015 was not ours; it was for Tunisia we only received the honors for hosting it as Tunisia was having some challenges at that particular time.

“So now when they called for a fresh bid we felt it was our opportunity as Zimbabwe to start the planning from scratch.”

ICASA director and coordinator of the secretariat for SAA Luc Amarnd Bodea is optimistic that Zimbabwe would host a successful conference.

“The Society for Aids in Africa is conscious of the momentous task ahead in preparing towards a successful ICASA 2023,” Bodea said.

“We are confident that the government of Zimbabwe with the good people of this country through ICASA 2023 will further motivate all African countries, the International community to devote more attention, and commitment to the fight against HIV and Aids and other emerging viral infections and diseases in Africa towards the end of AIDS by 2030.

“We are hereby appealing to all, to follow closely the unfolding preparations of ICASA 2023 and to lend your support to Zimbabwe, so that ICASA 2023 reflects lessons learnt that will further the new direction of the SDG strategies to move Africa towards strengthening our health systems, and the elimination of HIV, TB and malaria.”

ICASA offers a unique platform for leaders, activists, scientists and community to take stock of the challenges faced in achieving the UNAIDS global 95-95-95 targets and pave the way for an efficient innovation towards a generation without Aids in Africa and to assess and improve the global frame work for ending Aids by 2030 alongside defecting the Covid-9 by learning the best practices.

Next year’s conference represents a tremendous opportunity to highlight the diverse nature of the African region’s HIV epidemic and the unique response to it.

According to the 2020 Global Fund Covid-19 report, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic had a catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable communities around the world and halted progress made in mitigating the impact of HIV, TB and malaria globally.

According to the Health and Child Care ministry, Zimbabwe has over the last three decades scored major gains in the HIV and Aids response programme as evidenced by a sharp decline in new cases and deaths, new  HIV infections for all age groups declined from 40 900 to 24 900 between 2016 and 2020.

However with more funds being directed to Covid-19 there was no much activity in the HIV and Aids epidemic response, hence hosting ICASA means Zimbabwe get to strengthen in its fight against HIV.

So many direct and indirect jobs will be created in the hospitality, transport and security services ahead of and during the conference.

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