President Paul Kagame on Monday evening officiated at the official opening of the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), highlighting the need to shun stigma, pursue innovative approaches and invest the necessary financing resources.
He was joined by the President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi as well as the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The conference, the largest convening on AIDS, brings together thousands of people from across the African continent and elsewhere to highlight the threat posed by the HIV epidemic and the unique response to it.
Kagame highlighted stigma and silence as the real killers when it comes to sexually transmitted infections.
At the same time, he said, shame discourages people living with HIV from learning and accepting their status and accessing the healthcare needed to live a full life.
“ICASA exists in order to break down the taboos that impede prevention and early treatment. You are the ones to speak loudly and clearly. We have come too far in this struggle to do otherwise,” he noted.
The President also indicated that AIDS is an epidemic without borders.
Participants at the 20th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) in Kigali on December 2, 2019.Emmanuel Kwizera.
“Much of the success in the campaign to halt the spread of the virus can be credited to global cooperation,” he said, calling for support to the organisations that have been championing that agenda and calling for governments to mobilise the necessary financing resources.
Rwanda, which hosted the meeting for the first time, was lauded for its exemplary interventions towards fighting HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“Today, over 90 per cent of all people living with HIV in Rwanda know their status and almost all of them are on life-saving treatment. Of those, 90 per cent have achieved viral suppression,” Ghebreyesus said.
That, he added, makes Rwanda one of the few countries to achieve the 90-90-90 targets prior to 2020.
Under its fast-track target known as 90-90-90, by 2020 UNAIDS aims to have 90 percent of people with HIV knowing they are HIV-positive, 90 per cent of diagnosed people on treatment, and 90 per cent of those on treatment able to use the medication to suppress the amount of virus in their bodies to a low level.
According to Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Health Minister, Rwanda’s fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic is grounded in the principle that those affected should be at the centre of the response.
“The integration of HIV treatment into maternal and child services has led to more equitable access to prevention and treatment. In collaboration with our dear partners, we have managed to put our people at the centre of each intervention that is being made in the health sector,” she remarked.
Mozambican President commended Rwanda’s progress towards the fight against HIV/AIDS, highlighting his presence was to draw lessons from how other countries and learn from the kind of good practices deployed elsewhere to fight the HIV epidemic.
“In addition to drawing experience, we have come to Kigali to reaffirm the determination of our government to combat HIV/AIDS epidemic and proliferation of infectious diseases,” he noted.