ICASA

{Photo credit: Warren Zellman}Photo credit: Warren Zellman

I remember attending the Durban international AIDS conference in 2000, my first. That was the one where everything was going to turn around and we were going get a handle on the epidemic. Nelson Mandela spoke at that one, in a hall that was the size of three football fields. And the crowd was joyous, raucous, the noise was deafening and it was one of the most memorable days of my life. 

Before Mandela took the stage, a choir made up of kids—none more than 9 or 10 years of age and many much younger—took the stage to sing tribute to the great man and those of us gathering there.

It was charming and sweet. Everyone had a huge grin on their faces. And then I realized that this group of kids was special, maybe overheard someone nearby or perhaps the MC say that this, “was THAT group.” All were infected with the virus, and as I watched these gorgeous children singing so strong, moving and smiling and clapping with everyone, I knew, knew inside, that they probably wouldn’t live much longer.

Abubakar Muhammed Kurfi presenting at ICASA, Dec. 7, 2011. Credit: MSH.

Abubakar Muhammed Kurfi presenting at ICASA, Dec. 7, 2011. Credit: MSH.

The Program to Build Leadership and Accountability in Nigeria's Health System (PLAN-Health) -- led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) in conjunction with eight local and international partners -- helped the Nigerian National TB and Leprosy Control Program (NTBLCP) in carry out a capacity assessment. PLAN-Health and NTBLCP defined critical gaps in the program and developed a comprehensive plan to ensure effective tuberculosis (TB) control throughout the Nigeria -- which carries the fourth-largest TB burden in the world.

Two women hold a banner at ICASA 2011: Where's the Money for HIV? Credit: MSH.

 

Last week I had the privilege of attending the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal, where over 2,200 family planning and global health advocates, funders, and supporters gathered to voice support for family planning.

The 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) opened today, December 5, 2011, at the newly refurbished Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a colorful and lively music and dance production by the Ethiopian National Theatre and Traditional Music Group and the Addis Ababa Youth & Children’s Theatre.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). Credit: UNAIDS/J.Ose.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé gave an impassioned welcome speech remembering the last 30 years of AIDS and the 24 million African lives lost to the epidemic. He called for solidarity and compassion for the 34 million people currently living with HIV.

This year is not only MSH’s 40th anniversary; it is also 30 years since the first reported cases of HIV. Thirty years ago HIV was considered a new, always-fatal disease. ...Today 6.6 million people—nearly half of those in need—will take life-saving antiretrovirals.

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