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Dear colleagues, delegates, welcome to ICASA 2011 Addis Ababa.
Once again the forefront stakeholders in the response to HIV/AIDS in Africa are meeting in Addis, the home of the African Union to address our common enemy – the HIV epidemic and related diseases.
Since the inception of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), organized by the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) after ICASA 1990 in Kinshasa, we have noticed with the support of the UN System, WHO, UNAIDS, etc… and the strong commitment of NGOs, CSO, scientists, health professionals and activists that the burden of HIV and related diseases in Africa has stabilized in the face of considerable progress in access to prevention, treatment, care and support. The platform provided by ICASA has helped increase knowledge on the virus, experience sharing, and development of strong networks and significantly reduce stigmatization in our society.
However, ICASA 2008 hosted in Senegal in 2008, under the theme ‘’ Africa’s response: face the facts’’ recognized that despite tangible achievements in the response, HIV and AIDS are still a major burden in Africa and our people continue to get infected and to die. ICASA 2008 showed the weaknesses, challenges and strength of our response in Africa. Its showed that we cannot have an adequate response without involving and targeting key affected populations and those most at risk, and calling for accountability at all levels of the AIDS response in Africa.
ICASA 2011 in Addis is being organized 30 years since the first cases of what was later identified to be HIV were reported. With the recent scientific advances in HIV treatment and prevention, the enormous impact on survival, increased requirement for second and third -line treatment, and a new threshold of when to start, means we face a huge looming patient population. Africa must prepare to harness new and emerging preventive and treatment strategies being investigated including ‘’ Test and Treat’’ and the possible role of ‘’ Treatment as Prevention’’. Commitment and constant renewal are vital. Here we are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Headquarter of AU, for ICASA 2011 whose theme is “Own, scale-up and sustain’’. We need the full engagement of AU in terms of conventions on public health ratified by Heads of States; we need a scientific commission to seat at the AU addressing in a truly cross-functional way the issues of HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria and related diseases; to facilitate the step -wise implementation of universal access.
Dear Delegates, less than five years to the target date for the achievement of the MDGs, I believe that this powerful gathering of ICASA 2011 Addis will point the way forward to accomplishing our common vision of “Zero new infections, Zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related death in Africa’’.
See you all in Addis
Prof Robert Soudre,