Highlights of the 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa

By IGIHE
On 4 December 2019 at 10:45

In a gathering of the Leadership of African First Ladies in the Fight against HIV and AIDS (OAFLAD), Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, was joined by Excellences’ First Ladies of the Republic of Congo, Chad, Niger, and Botswana. In addition, leaders of the WHO, UNAIDS, and Global Fund were in attendance for the high-level meeting on the leadership of African First ladies in the response to the epidemic. The event discussed the interconnections between HIV/AIDS and broader health and development agendas.

Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda said nations of Africa should join hands in eradicating the HIV epidemic that has devastated the continent.

“We must be deliberate in strengthening our defense against HIV/AIDS and equip all men, women, and children with the resources to live safe and healthy lives”

She also shared statistics about the milestones Rwanda has reached so far in the fight against HIV “as of 2019, new HIV infections had decreased by 83%; and AIDS-related deaths had dropped by 82% in the last 20 years”

Mrs. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, UNAIDS joined the conversation saying that “6200 adolescent girls are infected with HIV weekly; girls are at risk of getting HIV because they lack the knowledge to make comprehensive decisions about their life.
There is a big need to put girls in school. She also added that for people living with HIV/AIDS, the question of domestic resource mobilization is a matter of life and death. “Many must be wondering, if this donor money has dried out, will we still be alive?”

The International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) Opening Ceremony was hosted by His Excellency, President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame.

The conference started on December 2nd and will end on December 7th. It serves as a platform to gather leaders, activists, scientists, researchers, community members, and key populations from across the globe to discuss the role of political leadership, collaboration, and scientific innovation in advancing efforts to end AIDS by 2030.

In his address to ICASA participants, Prof. John Idoko, President of ICASA said that the ICASA theme brings into sharp focus the continent’s commitment with support from bilateral and multilateral partners and that there is a need to be innovative and inclusive to achieve our set targets.

Dr. Diane Gashumba, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Rwanda reported that 91% of the Rwandan population is covered by health insurance. 99% of pregnant women are tested for HIV. 95% of our children are vaccinated and early infant diagnosis is fully integrated into these services.

As per the UNAIDS recent report while 97% of HIV positive people in Rwanda are on treatment and 90% are suppressing their viral loads.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO said that millions of people are currently on HIV treatment.

“Even better, millions of people are not on treatment because they have the tools to protect themselves.”

The continent has accelerated research and development and has pushed back the boundaries of science in hot pursuit of care.

“Today, over 90% of people living with HIV in Rwanda know their status, and almost all of them are on life-saving treatment. Of those, 90% have achieved viral suppression. That makes Rwanda one of the few countries to achieve the 90-90-90 targets prior to 2020”

With the commitment made by African Leaders at the February 2019 African Union Summit to invest domestic (government) resources in health, this event served as an opportunity to reinforce the commitments made, and to provide an update on the progress made thus far in relation to the agenda set forth by the African Union.

The event also included a panel discussion on how best to take stock of the progress in domestic investment in health on the continent and to discuss the challenges that need to be overcome.

Panelists included Honorable Dr. Uzziel Ngagijimana, Minister of Finance, Rwanda; Ambassador at Large, Debbie Brix, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy; Mr. Peter Sands, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and Mrs. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, UNAIDS.

In his speech, Dr. Patrick Ndimubanzi, Minister of State in charge of Primary Healthcare, Republic of Rwanda said the Africa Leadership meeting investing in health comes at a very strategic moment where enhanced action is needed to increase domestic investment in health from the public and private sectors.

Talking about Africa’s investment in health, Dr. Hala Zayed, Minister of Health of the Arab Republic of Egypt underlined that health is an investment and not a cost.

“As health is the main driver of economic growth and a platform for the launch for the sustainable development that we want to achieve”

Dr. Uzziel Ngagijimana, Rwanda Minister of Finance also joined the sessions saying that “According to the recent Human Capital Index, about 40 bottom countries are in Africa. It is a fact that we can’t achieve SDGs if we don’t invest in human capital and that is health and education”

Mr. Peter Sands, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria concluded saying that “Financing health is a means to an end. What you want is the health and well-being of the people”

Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda said nations of Africa should join hands in eradicating the HIV epidemic
Mrs. Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, UNAIDS said that girls are at risk of getting HIV because they lack the knowledge to make comprehensive decisions about their life.
Dr. Diane Gashumba, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Rwanda reported that 91% of the Rwandan population is covered by health insurance.
Prof. John Idoko, President of ICASA said that the ICASA theme brings into sharp focus the continent’s commitment
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO said that millions of people are currently on HIV treatment.
Dr. Hala Zayed, Minister of Health of the Arab Republic of Egypt underlined that health is an investment and not a cost.
Dr. Uzziel Ngagijimana, Rwanda Minister of Finance said that “ It is a fact that we can’t achieve SDGs if we don’t invest in human capital and that is health and education”

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