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The International Conference on AIDS and STIs (ICASA) which custodian is Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) held its 16th Edition in Addis Ababa Ethiopia: ICASA 2011. ICASA is Africa’s largest bilingual conference on AIDS, that brought together more than 10,000 participants from 116 countries, including scientists, health workers, people living with HIV, policy makers, civil society and non-governmental organizations, activists and government representatives to share and learn about successes, challenges and innovations in the prevention and control of AIDS and STIs.
The sixteen editions were organized by the Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) with the support of all stakeholders involved in the response of the epidemic. The opening ceremonies which start on the 4th December 2011 at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa acknowledged the immense contribution of the PEPFAR which was launched under the former US Head of State Administration, President George W. Bush an award was given to him to that effect by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. ICASA 2011 Addis, ended on the 8th of December 2011 as scheduled. The ICASA conference served as a platform whereby many professionals networked, shared experiences and developed their skills and knowledge.
The 16th ICASA did open colorfully in the presence of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, former US President George W. Bush, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, Michel Sidibé, and the Society for AIDS in Africa President, Prof. Robert Soudré, and ICASA 2011 Chair, Dr. Yigeremu Abebe, diplomats, invited guests, delegates and senior government officials.
Throughout the five days of ICASA 2011, over two hundred and twenty sessions took place, including sixteen plenary speeches, over fifty satellite symposia, seven special sessions, fifty-two oral abstract presentations, twelve oral poster discussions, thirty-seven non-abstract driven sessions, seven late breaker oral abstract sessions and forty-two workshops for community, leadership and professional skills building.
Five Young Investigator Awards were also presented for exceptional scientific research and work in the field of HIV and AIDS in Africa to two Ethiopians, one Nigerian, one Rwandan and one Senegalese. In addition, the Rwandan young researcher received Women, Girls and HIV Investigator Prize. Furthermore, over 800 scientific posters displayed while a daily exhibition booth gave over sixty local and international organizations and companies the opportunity to share their work, materials and ideas, and discuss important breakthroughs and activities with ICASA delegates.
The unique Positive Lounge, open through the week, provided a comfortable place for people living with HIV to rest and network, with complementary refreshments, space for informal meetings, and a private area for taking medications. There was also a disability center to those who need it, not to mention the catering, transportation, accommodation and security services provided for all.
The Community Village, on the other hand, offered daily interactions and discussions focused on successes, challenges, and concerns regarding the provision of community and home-based care to PLHIV, and included various activities, ranging from a disability networking zone, community dialogue area, a youth pavilion, a ‘Drop-in Center’ to improve the livelihoods of commercial sex workers, and the ‘Condomize’ zone, a UNFPA initiative, launched at ICASA 2011 to provide condom education and promotional materials including condoms, T-shirts and pins. The Village also provided dancing and singing, coffee ceremonies, and a fashion show.
The five days long ICASA 2011 came to an end with a declaration that urged donors to continue to invest in global health through contributions to the Global Fund.