The International Conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa (ICASA), 2021 edition was held in Durban, South Africa. Activists, scientists, community members and people working in the field of health from around the world discussed on scientific advances, shared experiences and made recommendations for advancing the collective efforts to end AIDS by 2030.
The critical issue of HIV prevention for which lack of budget from government sources have been observed, was among the issues which were highlighted upon needing further attention and advocacy form all concerned. Concerning the continent’s focus on closing HIV prevention gaps among vulnerable groups particularly among adolescents and young women in sub-Saharan Africa, despite evidence demonstrating the benefits of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE),the increasing opposing views on CSE was criticized mainly by young people who vehemently expressed their support to CSE which equips them with the necessary knowledge and information to prevent HIV , Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Gender Based Violence, among others.
Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM) for health and the failure of several African countries to meet the Abuja declaration target of allocating 15% of their national budget to health compounded by the immense challenge that COVID 19 has presented to the overly stretched health systems, was among the pressing topics that were deliberated upon at ICASA. Having witnessed the impact of COVID-19 on weak health systems there is sufficient evidence for policy makers to invest in health systems which hadn’t in the past received adequate attention partially due to reliance on external aid. Adopting sustainable funding model for countries health care systems through earmarked budget towards building resilient health systems, and promoting innovative health financing mechanisms including public private partnerships for health were some of the recommendations that were reiterated and considered indispensable to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Discussions also evolved around the Global Fund 7th replenishment efforts. In this regard, Global Fund representatives and partners such as UNAIDS stressed on the fact that there is not enough progress to end AIDS by 2030, hence the importance of supporting the replenishment process, critical to allocate adequate funding for programs aimed at removing inequities and Human Rights related barriers which have been obstructing national responses to HIV. On the same vein, Executive Director of the African Constituency Bureau for the Global Fund (ACB), Mr. Josephat Kakoma, guest speaker at the session convened by GFAN and WACI Health, called on donors to honor their ODA commitments, implementer governments to accelerate domestic resource mobilization and CSOs to voice out strong investment case for the upcoming Global Fund replenishment.