President Kagame said the fight against AIDS requires solidarity and continued dialogue so that issues of stigma are dealt with. By LusakaTimes

The 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) has officially opened in Kigali with President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame calling for strong political leadership and enhanced health systems in order for Africa to free herself from AIDS.

President Kagame said the fight against AIDS requires solidarity and continued dialogue so that issues of stigma are dealt with.

Mr. Kagame, who was accompanied by Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, said the existence of ICASA should enable Africa breakdown taboos and challenges surrounding HIV/AIDS.

He said it was vital that efforts to raise support towards securing resources for sustainability are intensified in Africa.

The Rwandan Head of State has meanwhile commended the continued engagement of Global Fund, GAVI and other international partners sponsoring research and related works in the area of HIV.

President Kagame has further underscored the need for strong national health systems so as to meet the current and future needs of people on the continent.

He noted that effective systems and proper infrastructure enabled HIV services reach communities easier.

President Kagame also called on communities to trust health care providers and services offered so that it can be easier to monitor and provide the much needed support.

He further stressed the need for good political leadership which can inspire the drive to combat the disease.

The Rwandan President pointed out that there was no substitute for building a caring society if structures and key factors capable of transforming the continent’s gains to build resilience against HIV and other diseases are overlooked.

And World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebeyesus praised Rwanda for being a model in Africa in terms of implementing a number developmental goals.

Dr. Ghebeyesus commended the country for being the first on the continent to achieve the 90-90-90 target in the area of HIV which he said was incredible.

He called on the whole continent to pursue more aggressive workable solutions if AIDS is to end by 2030.

Dr. Ghebeyesus stated that the 37.9 million people currently infected by HIV worldwide require interventions that will see their lives prolonged and new infections stopped.

The WHO chief reiterated his organisation’s commitment to working with governments on the continent to combat the disease.

Earlier, Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA) president John Ijoko urged the continent to focus their attention on young people as they were the future

Professor Idoko said whilst the current results by UNAIDS show that Africa had made progress in slowing down the virus, domestic financing and innovations still remain critical to eliminate the virus in Africa.

The ICASA conference opening ceremony, which was attended by first ladies from Botswana, Benin, Rwanda, Niger, ministers of health of African governments and dignitaries, was characterised by colourful performances by the local youths.

The conference, whose theme is, ‘AIDS Free Africa; innovation, community and political leadership, is running from December 2nd to 7th 2019 in Kigali and over 8,000 delegates have gathered for the Indaba.