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Opening Ceremony Speech by the President of the Society for Aids in Africa (SAA) at the 17th ICASA Cape Town – South Africa.

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SodureOn the eve of the opening of the 17th International Conference on Aids and Sexually transmitted diseases in Africa (ICASA 2013), Africa has lost a great son: Madiba has passed on and the entire continent is mourning. We’d like to take this opportunity to pay a vibrant homage to the illustrious departed and express our deepest condolences to his family. President Mandela was a courageous fighter against aids and apartheid. As the prison gave him freedom, death will make him immortal. He will stay an endlessexample for Africa and for the world. On behalf of the Society for Aids in Africa and the 17th conference, we will soon join the most authorized voices to pay tribute to his memory.

 

Your Excellency,the Vice-President of the Republic of South Africa
The minister of health representing her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda, President of Malawi
Mrs Christine Kaseba-Sata, First lady of Zambia
Mr Michel Sidibé, ExecutiveDirector of UNAIDS
Dr Louis Gomez Sambo, Regional Director of WHO for Africa

 

Dear representatives from international and inter-African organizations, dear ministers here present, dear representatives of the diplomatic corps, dear Colleagues, Honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is an honor and a great joy for me to be once more in this assembly where people from diverse professional and geographic background are gathered to focus on one objective: put an end to the scourge of HIV infection which constitutes a threat for the humanity, mainly for Africa for more than three decades.

 

Today, 7th December 2013 in South Africa, Cape Town is hosting the 17th panafrican conference on aids, and STIs. I’d not like to make a speech in the country of our beloved leader the late Madiba Mandela. I’d not make a speech because at the opening ceremony of ICASA 2005 in Abuja -Nigeria, Mandela himself declared: ‘’I am proud that ICASA is focusing its attention on leadership, but, leadership has to move beyond mere speeches at conference rooms to action. We can keep families together if we can ensure those who need treatment have access to treatment. We can empower those who know whether they are positive or negative to make informed choices about how they lives and to choose the means that best suits them to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS’’ end of quotation. After this statement, you agree with me that any other speech becomes unnecessary.

 

It is not a mystery to eradicate mother to child transmission. It is also not a mystery today to reverse the status of children under early treatment of primary infection from the mother referring to the Mississippi case –USA in 2010; then, a new generation free of HIV is possible! It is also possible to put more than 15 million people living with HIV/Aids in need on antiretroviral treatment. The real problem is that we know what to do, but we do not give ourselves the boldness to act. Why Africans Are not able to follow the example of the United Kingdom which has just increased his contribution to the Global Fund, or the American Congress which, unanimously, had voted for an increase of funds to the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDSs Relief (PEPFAR) last November, or France which decided to increase its contribution to the fight against HIV? I would like to join you dear delegates, to congratulate the efforts of these western countries which save millions of human lives. However, it is time to point out that the world’s second economic power, namely China, seems not to involve itself in this global effort to eradicate the scourge in Africa. Your Excellency, the Vice-President of the Republic of South Africa, allow me to be the spokesperson of the activist of the fight against Aids in Africa by inviting the President Zuma to ask the BRICS the following question: Why not using your voice in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) to call China which is the world’s second economic power to follow the example of the Westerns countries, to contribute financially to the Global Fund?

 

Dear African leaders, the bitter fact is that only few African countries respect the Abuja 2001 Declaration  adopted by the African heads of States; allocating 15% of their national budget to health. In this context, we need to congratulate the President Zuma. South Africa is indeed a good example in the respect of the Abuja Declaration, South Africa provide up to 80% of the care given to people living with HIV/Aids,  against 20% coming from foreign aid. We hope that after the 17th ICASA organized in Cape Town, the other African governments will follow its example. If from this platform, we encourage Western countries to do more, and challenge the world’s second economic power to react positively, It is right time to ask ourselves: when African Countries Parliament will enter history by adopting in their various countries a law making compulsory the allocation of 15% of their national budget to health?

 

Let me end by thanking his Excellency, President Jacob Zuma and his government for the support without which the conference would not have been taken place. We are grateful to Cape Town and to the South Africans for their warm welcome. Thanks to all our partners and sponsors who have always accompanied the ICASA through the years. Thanks to you dear delegates for being here once more to prove that zero infection is really possible. A special mention to the International Steering Committee, to the local organizing committee, especially to our partner Dira Sengwe and to those who directly or indirectly contributed to the organization of the 17th ICASA.

 

Long life Africa!
Long life South Africa!
Long life ICASA!
Long life the African free aids generation
May the example of Mandela inspire Africa and the world like the sun lighting the earth. The dead are not dead.

 

Thank you!
Prof Robert Soudre
ICASA 2013 President
SAA President

 

A condolence book is available in front of the podium. We are asking VIPs to sign it. It will then be placed in the SAA stand where everybody will be able to sign it.

 

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