KZN to host international HIV/Aids event in December
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DURBAN - KWAZULU-NATAL Premier Sihle Zikalala has revived HIV/Aids activism in the province, with the announcement that it would be the host for an international conference, focusing on research on overcoming the virus.
Zikalala said, from December 6 to December 11, the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) would be the hub for international researchers and academics from the African continent and international guests, during the 21st International Conference for Aids and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Africa (Icasa). Yesterday morning, the provincial and national Department of Health, through the Society for Aids in Africa, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to begin planning and preparations.
Zikalala said the provincial government endorsed Durban as a host city in April this year, as the province was still regarded as an epicentre for HIV/ Aids and its research. “We look forward to hosting an impactful, memorable conference, and to partner with the Society on Aids in Africa. Since its founding in 1989, the Society on Aids in Africa (SAA) has led from the front in mobilising stakeholders to attain the vision of an Africa which is free of AIDS, TB, Malaria, and other diseases. We recognise the organisation’s significant role in the fight against the stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV.
“SAA continues to be visible in campaigns for social justice, and expansion of quality treatment, care
and support for people living with HIV,” said Zikalala.
The premier said, notwithstanding the constraints brought by Covid-19, he expected a successful conference.
“Icasa 2021 in Durban is important for our province. We remain the province with the highest burden of HIV in South Africa. In this regard, this conference will help to galvanise all our stakeholders in KZN not to take the eye off the ball, while we battle the deadly Covid-19.
“We are also happy to host Icasa 2021 because KZN will also be able to share its many successful stories, many of which are driven by communities themselves at grass roots level, to turn the tide against HIV, AIDS, TB and STIs,” said Zikalala.
He said, apart from the focus on the HIV/Aids pandemic, the conference would provide economic empowerment opportunities that were designed to improve the economic status of girls and women in an effort to arrest the spread of HIV and STIs.
SAA president Professor John Idoko said SA and, in particular, KZN was widely regarded in the region as a valuable lesson point for the Covid19 pandemic, and HIV/Aids and TB treatment.
Idoko said: “We are hoping that, during the conference, we will be able to take valuable lessons on how the country has been able to tackle HIV/ Aids and Covid-19. SA is known for having a very active civil society.”
Chief executive of the South African National Aids Council Dr Thembisile Xulu said focus on the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent looting in the province had impacted HIV/Aids and TB patient treatment adherence, but the council was encouraged that infections had not increased uncontrollably.
Xulu said during the conference SANAC would be launching the “Back To Care” campaign.
“When Covid-19 hit SA, we realised that our five-year outreach plans would be affected, and we would not reach the targets that we had made for ourselves. This conference will hopefully revive the groundbreaking work that has been done in SA to tackle HIV/ Aids. Many NGOs were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, some have had to shut down and re-purpose their efforts, and we have lost a lot of people who do the ground work. We want people to come back to care,” said Xulu.
The Icasa Conference is the second-largest conference which will be held in the province, after the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF), which is scheduled to take place in November this year.