Wednesday

Tracking International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa, ICASA

By Henry Neondo

As the premier scientific and community conference on HIV/AIDS in Africa, the ICASA affords hosting countries the opportunity for raising mass awareness about the epidemic among its populace.

It also presents an avenue for experience-sharing, capacity-building and progress review for HIV/AIDS workers at country and regional level as well as a means of generating political support and resource mobilization for the campaign to stop the epidemic.

How did it begin?

With participation at recent editions averaging between 4000 and 6000 participants from within and outside Africa for the week-long duration, the ICASA is also an opportunity for boosting tourism potentials of the host country.

The story of ICASA begins with the formation of AIDS society in Africa which began in 1988 when scientists met in Stockholm, Sweden and decided to form a group of eight people to meet and exchange views.

A year later, the same met in Marseilles, France and decided to that the Society of AIDS in Africa should hold the ICASAs meeting in African countries and not in the West.

The first ICASA conference was held in Arusha, Tanzania in 1988, switched to the West in 1989 with a number of meetings alternating between Europe and North America.

Then moved back to Africa in Kinshasa, DR Congo, then Zaire in 1990.

Personalities credited with the formation of the ICASA are Prof Mbuk from Senegal, Prof Soyinka, Nigeria and current President of ICASA 2005, Dr Damet from Cote d' Ivoire, Dr Owili, Kenyan and Dr Mpele and Dr Karenganyi from Dr Congo, Prof Hamny from Tanzania, Prof Latek and Prof Luo from Zambia and Prof Latif from Zimbabwe.

Then there are Prof Salema, Prof Fakia from Sudan, Prof Mkubiri from Tunisa among others.

Hosting right for the conference traditionally alternates between Francophone and Anglophone African countries. Recent editions of the conference have held in Cameroon (3rd ICASA) in 1991, Morocco (4th ICASA) in 1992. It was at the Marrakesh, Morocco that it was then decided to be holding ICASA every two years alternating between Francophone and Anglophone Africa.

So in 1995, ICASA went to Kampala, Uganda (9th ICASA) 1997, Abidjan, Cote d' Ivore ( 10th ICASA), 1999 Lusaka, Zambia (11th ICASA), 2001 Oudagaou, Burkina Faso (12th ICASA), 2003, Nairobi, Kenya, (13th ICASA), 2005, Abuja, Nigeria (14th ICASA).

Since Kenya is an English speaking country, the hosting right for the 14th ICASA would have been granted Senegal, which bidded alongside Nigeria.

Senegal was however compensated with hosting the 2007 edition according to information pending to be confirmed in Nigeria later this year.

Issues

The story in the war against HIV and AIDS begins with Uganda's success story that began emerging at the 9th International Conference on AIDS and STD in Africa (ICASA) when the country played host to ICASA in Kampala.

Lots of results from studies released at the conference indicated that AIDS epidemic began to level off in urban areas, with rates among women, especially those who are pregnant, continuing to climb steadily in the outlying semiurban areas.

In addition, a high prevalence and sizable rate of new infections were noted occurring among militaries.

It was also from the 9th ICASA onwards when the need for political commitment for success on the war against the scourge began. The world was then told that political will was the reason behind the success of Uganda and Senegal.

Early and sustained commitment by President Yoweri Museveni and President Walde to HIV prevention were thought to have caused the sustained decline of HIV prevalence in Uganda and Senegal.

But while the Heads of government began joining in chest thumping in some noted successes, activists however began to draw attention to the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Two years later, at the 10th ICASA in Abidjan, the Government of Senegal drew the world's attention to its own domestic success.

A vigorous Information, Education and Communication and STD control programmes began to be formulated from the 10th ICASA onwards.

Information that enlightened on the policy towards female sex work was then began and is credited with avoiding a major HIV epidemic in Senegal, albeit with their real impact beyond major citites and urban centres.

At the 11th ICASA in Lusaka in 1999, the successes were confirmed and the doubters silenced.

At the 12th ICASA in Ouagadougou, Bourkina Faso, Africa's attention was on Zambia. The national prevalence of HIV in Zambia was clearly on the decline. Between 1994 to 1998, HIV prevalance among urban adults in Zambia fell from 28.5 to 26.2 per cent and in rural areas from 12.1 to 11.7 per cent.

Although this was not an impressive change, impressive, however was the decline in HIV prevalence among urban teenage girls from 28.4 percent in 1993 to 14.8 percent in 1998.

While previous attempts from the initial ICASA conferences aimed at bringing heads of governments on board to the fight against HIV and AIDS, the 11-13th ICASAs however brought in the youth than any other ICASAs before.

Youth peer action was practically invented in Zambia by the Family Health Trust. If another success is to be celebrated at the 11th ICASA, then it was the thousands of dedicated volunteers, hundreds of small community organisations outside the governments' machinery.

The Lusaka conference also was the first real point where medics started thinking out of the box" as it were when they for the first time, allowed strong participation by traditional medicine healers when traditional healers were given a parallel session under the aegis of the Association for the Promotion of Medicine (PROMETRA) founded in Dakar, Senegal, earlier to respond to the need of promoting traditional medicine.

No place country year theme
15 SENEGAL 2007
14th ABUJA, Nigeria 2005


!3th NAIROBI KENYA 2003


12 Ouagadougou Bourkina Faso 2001


11 Lusaka Zambia 1999 "Looking Into The Future: Setting The Priorities For HIV/AIDS In Africa" (Zambia)


10 Abidjan COTE D IVORE 1997


9 Kampala Uganda 10-14/12, 1995

8 Marrakesh Morocco 12-16/9/ 1993



7 Younde Cameroon 8-11 December 1992



6 Kinshasa DR Congo 1990


5 San Francisco USA 1989


4 Montreal Canada 1989

3 Marseille , France, 1989


2 Stockholm Sweden 1988

1 Arusha Tanzania 1988

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