Boost for Aids battle in Africa
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DURBAN is preparing for a major conference in December, aimed at scaling up Africa’s response to HIV/Aids amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Premier Sihle Zikalala has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Health and the Society for Aids in Africa (SAA) to host the 21st International Conference for HIV/Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA).
The conference, to be held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, will bring together scientists, policy-makers, communities, activists and people living with HIV.
Zikalala said it would be an opportunity to rededicate to the ideal and promise of an Aids-free Africa. He said that the conference would galvanise stakeholders in KZN not to take their eyes off the ball while the country battles the deadly Covid-19.
“The fight against STIs, TB, HIV, and stigma are important in building lasting peace in relationships, in homes, in communities and in societies,” he said. “This will be an opportunity also to examine our strategies and impact in reducing HIV infections in key populations, as well as the vulnerable groups like girls and women aged between 15 and 24.
South African National Aids Council (SANAC) chief executive and Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairperson Dr Thembisile Xulu commended the SAA for keeping HIV/Aids, TB and STIs on the agenda at a time when resources had to be re-purposed towards the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The conference is a reminder that HIV is still a raging epidemic in the country. That TB is still the number one killer of people living with HIV in this country. If we do not conquer STIs, we will never conquer HIV,” said Xulu.
She emphasised that even though it has the largest burden of HIV in the world, the country had made vast progress in changing the lives of those with HIV/Aids. Xulu announced that KZN was the first province with districts that met all of the UN’s targets to end HIV/Aids. These districts included Ugu, Umkhanyakude, and Umzinyathi districts.
A member of KZN academia, Professor Mosa Moshabela, said although the province was known as the epicentre and hub for HIV/Aids and TB, a lot had been achieved.
“KZN is the hub of many solutions, and is having talks with relevant stakeholders about possibly manufacturing vaccines,” Moshabela said.
Professor John Idoko, president of the SAA, said he knew the power of research emerging from such conferences. The SAA, established in 1989, has been mobilising stakeholders, ensuring social justice and the expansion of quality treatment, care and support for people living with HIV.
“KZN and South Africa has an active civil society, so it does not come as a shock that KZN was in discussions to start manufacturing vaccines,” said Idoko.