ICASA 2019

Kigali, 2-7 December 2019

The 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), which takes place at Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda during the first week of December, represents an unparalleled opportunity to highlight not only the diverse nature of the HIV epidemic in Africa, but also the different and unique responses to it. Delegates from all over the world will share the latest scientific advances in the field, learn from one another’s expertise, and develop strategies for advancing collective efforts to end AIDS by 2030.

Focusing on the theme “AIDS-free Africa: Innovation, Community and Political Leadership”, the conference will explore the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework, and the fact that reaching the 2030 targets of an AIDS-free continent will only be possible through a community-centric approach focused on innovation, and with political leadership that supports a human rights based response to HIV and AIDS in Africa.

To ensure the continent is AIDS-free and no-one is left behind, it is important to identify those populations that are hard to reach or have been inadequately served in the past, as they will remain key to the response even if 90-90-90 targets are reached. Innovative approaches and community investment will be essential to reach such structurally disadvantaged groups, while political leadership will be critical in adopting culturally- and scientifically-endorsed approaches that are cognisant of the African context.

ICASA 2019 presents an opportunity to renew global commitment for the fight against HIV and AIDS, despite risks from the global economic downturn and the increasing dangers of nationalism and rejection of “the other”. Hence, the international community, and all Africans, should join efforts in re-committing to achieving an AIDS-free Africa. The future we want for Africa cannot be a reality if we don’t take bold steps in addressing HIV and AIDS among young people and affected key populations now.


Kigali, 29 & 30 November 2019

Against this background, African Men for Sexual and Health Rights (AMSHeR), African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA), Gender Dynamix/ The Southern Africa Trans Forum (SATF), African Key Populations Expert Group (AKPEG) and the African Network of People Using Drugs (AfricanPUD) and other networks of key populations (KPs) will host a day-and-a-half KP Pre-conference at ICASA 2019.

The pre-conference aims to rethink strategies and forge resistance to end AIDS among key populations in Africa (resistance against the epidemic, and against structural factors and barriers that enable high infection, transmission and death rates among these particular key population segments). It will also facilitate an exchange of views and tactics, and serve as a platform to reflect upon and identify priority health and human rights-related issues for key populations or youth not being served by current HIV and AIDS responses (such as young women and a segment of young women who are queer), how socio-cultural issues and norms affect them and increase their vulnerabilities to HIV/AIDS, and affect their access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health (SRH) services.

Focusing on strategies and resistance for delivering SDGs among current and recently young key populations, two overlapping groups (both particularly vulnerable to HIV infection) come into focus: key populations and young people. KPs continue to be most affected by HIV and AIDS across the globe, and particularly in Africa. In every region of the world, the prevalence of HIV is significantly higher among these groups, yet, despite the elevated risk, KPs continue to be excluded from national HIV policies, national sanctioned interventions and minimum HIV services packages.

Furthermore, globally and in Africa, there is a shortage of research on KPs, resulting in scant epidemiologic and service delivery data in respect of sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and transgender persons. Even more concerning is the fact that all evidence show the epidemic is getting younger, with young people (10-24 years) and adolescents (10-19 years) continually being disproportionately affected by HIV, especially in sub-Saharan Africa

Conversations about young people’s sexual and gender diversity, drug use, sex work among youth, youths in detention, and what role recently young adults play (or fail to play) should take place in a frank and robust space that puts the well-being of young people and key populations at the centre.

Solutions and interventions to address the current crisis must be grounded in the socioecological context of the same groups, as this is where the factors that put them at an increased risk HIV exist, and intersect with the lack of political leadership and evidence-informed, cross-generation strategies. If we believe that young people are the future of our continent, we should ensure that they are part of the strategic conversations and interventions of today.

Against this background, this year’s KP Pre-conference theme is:
“Rethinking strategies and forging resistance: Out of the old and into the SDGs era through political will and community investment.”

The KP Pre-conference goals and objectives

The KP pre-conference goal is to develop efficient strategies for addressing HIV and SRHR needs among current and recently young key populations in Africa.

Specifically, the KP Pre-conference aims to:

  • stimulate a broader conversation, located in the African context, about strategies and tactics to address the current context of elevated HIV and AIDS infection, transmission and death rate among young people and key populations;
  • develop priority issues from the KP networks with reference to young people and other KPs in terms of sexual and reproductive health and rights’ needs;
  • explore avenues and spaces to introduce the adults-youth conversation on strategic approaches to end HIV and AIDs, including boosting political leadership around KP issues;
  • identify appropriate interventions to better empower young key populations against HIV infection, taking into account cultural context;
  • provide a platform for the visibility of current and recently young KPs’ participation in and contribution to the HIV response;
  • meaningfully engage and articulate a broad conversation on the state of the HIV and AIDS;
  • explore programme funding and investment in communities;
  • facilitate and encourage mutually enriching learning exchanges between networks, communities and researchers, policymakers, donors, and other stakeholders; and
  • provide a platform for networking and donors dating for increased attention to youth and KP issues.

Expected outcomes

  • Increased awareness of sexual and gender diverse African youth and strategies to address the needs of these YKPs
  • Increased awareness of health and human rights-related issues affecting KPs in Africa
  • Identification of priority needs of KPs to address the health and human rights needs across ages in Africa
  • Identification of culturally sensitive and scientifically appropriate programmatic interventions for Young and KP and opportunities for these interventions
  • Increased knowledge and understanding of the latest biomedical scientific evidence, innovations and guidelines for addressing the health and human rights needs of inadequately served groups
  • Enhanced Youth and KPs’ leadership and advocacy
  • Commitments to further advance YKPs in programming and advocacy at domestic, regional and global level
  • A broad action plan that articulates KPs’ engagement with the donor community.

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