ICASA 2008 ends with call for stronger youth focus
07 December 2008
ICASA 2008 closed on 7 December with a strong message: youth are essential in the response to AIDS in Africa, especially those living with HIV. The closing ceremony began with a statement delivered by Ms Souadou N'Doye, a young Senegalese. She spoke on behalf of all young Africans and urged those in attendance to ensure that young people are involved in the design of HIV programmes.
She asked governments and partners to utilize the talents of young people from each country. Without young people, she stressed the AIDS response is incomplete. "All that is done for us, but without us, is against us," she said.
Professor Souleymane M'Boup, president of the ICASA 2008 organizing committee, expressed his gratitude to the organizers and to participants who travelled from all over the world to attend the Africa-focus AIDS conference. He emphasized his satisfaction in knowing that all people touched by HIV were present at the conference and had a platform to express their concerns, from vulnerable women and sex workers to men who have sex with men and migrants. He said the mosaic of participants made this 15th edition of ICASA a success. Most importantly, Prof M’Boup said he realized over the past five days that “Africa is moving, and that energy and hope are everywhere.” He closed by asking participants to return home with one message – Africa’s AIDS response must be advanced.
The need for a focus on sexual minorities, the greater involvement of youth, religious and military leaders and the urgency to improve HIV prevention programmes have been running themes throughout the conference sessions. A cross-cutting issue was the need for long-term financing. This was identified as a critical aspect for human development in Africa and especially for an effective and sustainable response to AIDS.
The ICASA organizers used the closing ceremony to deliver a series of awards to those leaders active in addressing AIDS. UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot, Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Dr Meskerem Grunitzky-Bekele, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, were among those who were presented with an award from the Senegalese Minister of Health and Prevention, Dr Safiatou Thiam.