ICASA 2017: give repressive climates the red flag

As the 19th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) begins in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire (4 – 9 December), the Alliance is calling on African governments to urgently address repressive climates that are derailing HIV prevention.

Efforts on HIV prevention have accelerated in the global HIV response in recent years, driven by the need to meet UNAIDS Fast Track targets. This means prevention is likely to be a key focus at ICASA.

African Linking Organisations and community actors from across the Alliance will be attending the conference, one of the most important global events for the HIV response, to present compelling evidence on how communities of young people, sex workers, people who use drugs, gay, lesbian and transgender people hold the key to delivering results on HIV prevention when free from the fear of violence or arrest.

Christine Stegling, the Alliance’s executive director, said: “We are heartened that governments, donors and activists are once again galvanised on HIV prevention.

“The evidence is loud and clear - we are leaving key populations behind in the HIV response and failing to meet the needs of girls and young women. Yet governments continue to ignore and deny the day-to-day fear of violence and criminalisation that sex workers, people who use drugs, gay, lesbian and transgender people face across Africa.

“As we meet in Cote d’Ivoire, it’s time for governments to act urgently to address this repressive climate and boldly champion the rights of girls, young women and key populations.”

<p><span style="font-size: 13px;"><span style="font-size: 11pt; background-color: white;">Margaret Gakii (right), a sex worker from Watamu, Kenya recieves a dignity kit containing toiletries from a community outreach worker (left). </span></span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 13px;"><span style="font-size: 11pt; background-color: white;">Margaret also uses drugs. She believes that some men particularly disregard and abuse female sex workers who don&rsquo;t look clean and presentable and so is very grateful for the kits as it helps keep her safe.<br /></span></span></p>A sex worker (right) in Watamu, Kenya recieves community outreach © Corrie Wingate for the Alliance 2017

PITCH: an open dialogue

The first day of ICASA (4 December) will see the Partnership to Inspire, Transform and Connect the HIV response (PITCH) bring community actors such as the Uganda Harm Reduction Network and the Western Kenyan Intersex Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Network together with policy actors to show how community-led organisations are key to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A Call To Action to invest in community action to achieve these global health targets by 2030 and to stop violence against communities will be launched at the session, with support for the Call expected to build throughout the week.

READY to Decide

The Alliance’s new READY to Decide campaign, part of a youth-led movement to attain gender equality and stop violence against girls and women, will also address ICASA. In partnership with Y+ (the Global Network of Young People Living with HIV), READY’s youth advocates will be offering programme managers and service providers guidance on the best ways to address adolescents’ needs more effectively at a workshop on 6 December. The campaign will be calling for renewed action to attain gender equality SDG5 targets in a Call to Action, also being launched at the conference.

The Rapid Response Fund: an open space

On Friday (8 December), the Alliance’s Rapid Response Fund & ViiV Healthcare are partnering on a unique peer-to-peer session, facilitated by activists Haidari Hamis Msigwa from Tanzania and Innocent Laison from Senegal. The Open Space is targeted at LGBTQI and MSM-led community-based organisations that have limited opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and will provide people with an opportunity to hear from other, more experienced LGBTQI and MSM-led organisations and community-actors.

Follow the Alliance throughout ICASA via the Alliance’s Twitter feed and at the READY Facebook page. Join the conversations at #READYtoDecide #CommunitySDGs and #ICASA2017.

You can read more about the main Alliance events here.