ICW West Africa Regional News
Communique Issued at the End of 19th ICASA 2017
Communique Issued at the End of 19th International Conference on AIDS and Sexual Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA 2017) by International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW West Africa) Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire 4th to 9th December, 2017 funded by UNWOMEN.
With the support of UN Women, the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW West Africa) alongside with PAPWC, SISTER LOVE, COFCI and ICW local Network in Cote’Dioire successfully hosted and organized the Women Networking Zone at the 19th International Conference on AIDS and Sexual Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA 2017) which took place in Abidjan, Cote’Idoire from 4th to 9th December, 2017.
The 19th ICASA provided an opportunity to renew global commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS and for all Africans, to join efforts in committing to achieving an AIDS-free Africa. The conference further provided opportunity to promote inter-sectoral achievements in the AIDS response and to strengthen the partnership among governments, civil society and development partners. ICASA 2017 was chaired by Dr Ihab AbdelRhaman Ahmed, President of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) and co-chaired by Dr. Raymonde Coffie Goudou, Ministry of Health representing the Government of Côte d’Ivoire.
The Women Networking Zone (WNZ) was successfully manned by ICW West Africa alongside PAPWC, SISTER LOVE, COFCI with other Women Networks and the local network of ICW in Côte d’Ivoire. The WNZ was officially declared open by the district Governor of Abidjan and Minister of Health on the 5th December 2017 with Dr Jacqueline Utamuriza of UN Women in attendance.
In addition to manning the WNZ, ICW West Africa and PAPWC equally hosted a number of activities at the community village including debates, drama, presentations and skills building sessions on contemporary issues around on HIV/AIDS including networking, advocacy, achieving the 90-90-90 UN treatment targets: perspective of women living with HIV and experience sharing among others. The WNZ had participants from Benin, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Congo RDC, Chad, Cameroun, Burkina, Niger, Central Africa Republic, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Cape verte, Liberia, South Africa, Tunisia, Eygpt, USA, Canada and participants from Across Europe. At the end of ICASA 2017, ICW West Africa and other Women Networks in Africa:
- applauded the current vibrancy, repositioning and participation of women living with HIV and other key populations in regional and international AIDSConferences and other health related fora through the generous support of the UN Women;
- applauded the leadership of UNAIDS for their bold steps, strategy and support towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030;
- applauded the WHO strategy on early initiation on antiretroviral treatment upon diagnosis for pregnant women which ensures protection against mother-to-child-transmission of HIV in actual and future pregnancies, keeping mothers alive and well as well as preventing transmission of HIV among sero-discordants, which in effect means healthier mothers who will be able to ensure the upbringing and education of their children, and perpetuate the values that make-up the core of the African society;
- acknowledged the fact that past legacy is now under threat as a result of the global economic downtown and lack of political leadership and commitment to fight HIV/AIDS by our respective national leaders in Africa;
- noted that West and Central Africa regions which bears the highest burden of AIDS in Africa is now out of focus, an indication that the two regions may not reach the UN 90-90-90 treatment targets by the 2020 if nothing is done urgently to salvage the situation;
- noted that the poor funding of the HIV/AIDS program by the respective national governments in West and Central Africa is causing untold hardship to millions of people living with HIV particularly women and children who have no access to antiretroviral medicines;
- noted that the presence of obnoxious laws and policies has further increase the vulnerability of women and other key population to HIV, thus limiting peoples access to HIV treatment and making the goal of ending AIDS difficult in Africa;
- that immediate treatment upon diagnosis, that is test and treat clients irrespective of CD4 count, will result in immediate economic and social returns on investment;
- noted the economic and social returns on investment that will result from immediate treatment upon diagnosis irrespective of CD4 Count, which in effect means that people living with HIV will remain productive for longer, thus bringing returns on investment if no worker dies of AIDS; no new workers have to be hired and trained to replace those who were lost to the epidemic and job skills and experience are not compromised;
- that many studies, have confirmed that early therapy reduces the rates of new sexual transmission of HIV 96% compared to delayed therapy and that the results hold great promises of ending AIDS, with the attainment of the 90-90-90 target are accorded the desired political will and commitment.
During the conference, participants discussed issues around access to HIV treatment, the prospects of achieving the 90-90-90 targets, the new WHO Guidelines of Test and Treat, Human Rights Issues in relation to access to treatment, quality of HIV services, dwindling donor support and the low domestic funding for HIV/AIDS in West and Central Africa in particular and Africa in general.
In view of the foregoing, we wish to remind the commitment of the Government of Benin, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Congo RDC, Chad, Cameroun, Burkina, Niger, Central Africa Republic, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Côte d’Ivoire to fulfill the highest attainable standard of health for all the citizens, when ratifying the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 22 June 1983 and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 29 July 1993, and call on your Excellencies to, as a matter of urgency:
- review and revise all the testing and treatment policies, manuals and guidelines towards the goal of achieving vision 90-90-90 targets by 2020 in order to endAIDS as public health threat by 2030;
- increase domestic funding for HIV/AIDS through allocation of 15% of the national budget to health as recommended by Abuja Declaration of Commitment 2001;
- ensure that all HIV/AIDS related services are free and accessible to the populations that are in need of them especially, women and children in rural area communities;
- ensure meaningful engagement and representation of Women Living with HIV in national processes including, initiation, planning, implementation and monitoring of the AIDS response in Africa;
- ensure that all HIV/AIDS interventions are patients centered and respect the rights and dignity of the clients and is free from discrimination.
We base our call on the scientific evidence regarding the individual and public health benefits of early initiation of antiretroviral therapy and also the treaty obligations of the Federation under the right to health and the fact that Western and Central Africa are now reported to be out of focus, meaning that Africa may not be able to join the league of nations that will end AIDS as public health threat by 2030 if current lukewarm attitude to the fight against HIV/AIDS continue unabated.
We hope that the outcome and lessons learnt from the WNZ ICASA will be carried forward as move closer to AIDS 2018 Amsterdam, the Nederland’s.
You can view some of the pictures of the event below.
For and on behalf of International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW West Africa)
- Ndeye Astou Diop
- Reginald Assumpta Ngozi