ICASA ends on a high note

10 Dec, 2023 - 00:12 0 Views
ICASA ends on a high note Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga

The Sunday News

Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Constantino Chiwenga has emphasised on the need to generate incisive research that influences policy development in the implementation of effective HIV prevention and treatment programmes in Africa with a focus on community involvement and engagement which has proven to be a game changer in the hope of ending Aids by 2030.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ambassador Frederick Shava at the closing of the International Conference on Aids and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (ICASA) yesterday, VP Chiwenga said it was critical to also take stock of the gains made so far in the fight against HIV in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole. “The recommendations and decisions adopted by this conference will undoubtedly give renewed impetus to the fight against HIV/Aids. It is our hope that the outcomes of the conference will generate incisive research, influence policy development, and lead to the implementation of effective prevention and treatment programmes,” he said.

VP Chiwenga reiterated that President Mnangagwa, in his statement at the beginning of the conference, on 4 December 2023, said nations must support research in indigenous medicines, harnessing the vast natural resources that Africa is endowed with.

“Local production of medicines will ensure constant and uninterrupted supply and in the long-term reduce the disease burden on our continent. It is heartening to note that the overwhelming consensus from the Conference is that Aids is not yet over and consequently, should remain on the priority list of Governments, development partners, and communities,” he added. 

He added that Arica and the world at large should continue to invest in solid health systems that provide accessible and equitable healthcare to every individual, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location. 

He said the fight against HIV/ Aids, STIs, and ebola should not only focus on medical interventions but also address the social determinants that fuel the spread of these diseases, which include poverty, gender inequality and stigma.

In doing this, the VP said it was crucial that they leave no one and no place behind in innovations to resolve the health challenges. VP Chiwenga said he was particularly encouraged by the emphasis placed on strengthening community engagement and involvement saying community-led responses have proven to be effective in raising awareness, reducing stigma and discrimination and improving access to prevention and treatment services.

“Let us therefore support and amplify the voices of those most affected by HIV and Aids, STIs, and ebola at the community level, so that their experiences can shape our policies and interventions. As we come to the end of this conference, we must reflect on the progress we have made and acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead. While we celebrate the significant advancements achieved in the fight against HIV and Aids and STIs, as well as ebola and other emergencies, we must remain vigilant, intensifying our efforts to eliminate these diseases from our society,” said VP Chiwenga.

He added that the conference had reminded delegates of the importance of implementing comprehensive and evidence-based prevention strategies that prioritise vulnerable populations, including young people, sex workers, and people who use drugs.

“By adopting a multi-sectorial, all-inclusive approach, we can create an enabling environment that fosters healthy behaviours and empowers individuals to take control of their sexual and reproductive health,” he said.

He encouraged delegates to leave the conference inspired and energised to continue to work in their respective countries, united in a commitment to achieving an Aids-free generation. Zimbabwe was hosting ICASA for the second time after the first opportunity was awarded in 2015. @NyembeziMu

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