South Africa to host 21st International Aids Conference

28 October 2014

Durban will host the 21st International Aids Conference from 17 to 22 July 2016 where scientists, world leaders, and people living with HIV will discuss successes and challenges in combating the epidemic.

Delegates will also share best practices, learn from one another’s experience and develop new strategies and collaborations during the six-day conference taking place at the Durban International Convention Centre. This will be the second time that South Africa and the city of Durban will host the biennial conference, having hosted the event in 2000.

The conference, commonly known as Aids 2016, is organised by the International AIDS Society, the South African government and international civil society organisations.

International Aids Conference

The return of the International Aids Conference to Durban is highly significant for a number of reasons, said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the official announcement of the conference dates and venue in Johannesburg on 27 October.

Addressing guests who included the President of the International Aids Society and International Chair of Aids 2016, Professor Chris Beyrer; CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council and Local Co-Chair of Aids 2016, Dr Olive Shisana; and Dr Brian Brink, the Chief Medical Officer at Anglo American, Ramaphosa said the year 2000 conference “was pivotal in focusing the world’s attention on the impact of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, fundamentally changing the course of the epidemic on the continent’.

Quoting former President Nelson Mandela when he delivered his closing address at the 2000 conference, Ramaphosa said: “Let us not equivocate: a tragedy of unprecedented proportions is unfolding in Africa. Aids today in Africa is claiming more lives than the sum total of all wars, famines and floods, and the ravages of such deadly diseases as malaria. It is devastating families and communities, overwhelming and depleting health care services; and robbing schools of both students and teachers.’

Combating the impact of HIV

A lot has been done to combat the epidemic in Africa and the rest of the world since 2000, according to Ramaphosa. He said several countries on the continent have implemented massive treatment and prevention programmes that have had a marked impact on HIV incidence, life expectancy and maternal and infant mortality.

“South Africa, with the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, has rolled out the world’s largest treatment programme, with over 2.7-million people initiated on antiretroviral.

“Though we have made progress in many areas, we are still concerned about the stubbornly high numbers of new infections, the challenges we face in ensuring that those who are on treatment are supported to continue taking their medication and that stigma continues to undermine the impact of our programmes,’ said Ramaphosa.

As South Africa prepares to host Aids 2016, Ramaphosa said the country will intensify efforts to address the challenges mentioned above. “We are determined that by the time we meet again in Durban, we will be able to report significant progress on all these fronts,’ he said.

Aids 2014 objectives

To achieve the objectives set at Aids 2014 held in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this year, Ramaphosa said there is need to ensure that the response to Aids remains prominent in the post-2015 sustainable development framework.

“We need to ensure that the international community continues to affirm the inextricable link between development and health.

“In our quest for social justice and equity, we need to ensure that the development community, G8 and other global health platforms continue the focus on ensuring universal coverage. There is a need for a sustained collaboration between various sectors of society. We need to strengthen the social compacts that have been developed over the course of many years,’ said Ramaphosa.

The private sector has also offered much-needed help in combating the spread of Aids, according to Ramaphosa. “Through collaboration and coordination, through learning from each other, through engaging with each other, we will enhance our ability to bring the epidemic to an end,’ he said.

SAinfo reporter

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