Commonwealth supports international AIDS conference for Africa

29 August 2011

Conference to explore linkages between communicable diseases such as HIV and TB and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes

The Commonwealth is partnering with the Society for AIDS in Africa, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, African Union, and key stakeholders, to plan the agenda of the upcoming International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), from 4 to 8 December 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Up to 10,000 delegates are expected to take part in the summit where countries will share the progress made towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in Africa, as part of Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Director in charge of Health, Dr Sylvia Anie, said health professionals in the fields of HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Tuberculosis and Malaria will participate in the meeting.

“Serving as a member of the International Steering Committee and participating in the planning of this major conference provides the Commonwealth Secretariat an important platform to draw greater attention to the challenges faced by Commonwealth countries in the area of communicable diseases and to explore with key stakeholders effective ways of tackling key issues, particularly those affecting the 19 Commonwealth African countries,” said Dr Anie.

She added that the Commonwealth Secretariat would continue to support ICASA by promoting the achievements made in responding to AIDS, as well as using the conference to strengthen partnerships between governments, civil societies, communities and development partners. The conference will also encourage young researchers, health care workers and community representatives from the developing world to participate, by providing scholarships.

The Secretariat will also lead the handing over ceremony from the current host country, Ethiopia, to the host country for the 2013 ICASA - Commonwealth member South Africa.

As a result of deliberations at a planning meeting in Addis Ababa in August 2011, a session on exploring the linkages between communicable diseases such as HIV and TB, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, oral health, mental disorders and blood disorders, has been approved by the International Steering Committee for the December meeting.

In 2010 Commonwealth health ministers agreed on a roadmap on NCDs - the leading cause of death in almost every country in the world - to identify activities to increase change in this area. Through various media, the Secretariat has been raising awareness about NCDs and the main risk factors that contribute to their development: tobacco use, unhealthy diets, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity.