The 18th edition of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) was held in Zimbabwe at the end of 2015. The conference, which brought together leading scientists, practitioners, activists and organizations, started on 29 November and ended on 4 December. AJAN was represented at ICASA by participants from AJAN House and from Benin, Madagascar, Burundi and Zimbabwe itself. They contributed to the collective pool of knowledge and resources by sharing their own experiences, best practices and pragmatic approaches. Fr Pierre Celestin SJ from the Service Yezu Mwiza in Burundi shares what struck him at the conference:
The weak link in the care and treatment of HIV and AIDS in Africa is the mobilization of local resources. During a session on sustainable funding, we heard an urgent call for more community-based responses that bring together government, key populations, civil society and other key partners in the struggle against AIDS.
Such mobilization is crucial; in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there will be a decrease in funding and less opportunities to combat AIDS, because it is felt that other priorities on the international agenda need a rapid response.
But the picture presented was not all gloomy. In one innovative example of mobilization of local resources, a representative from the Zimbabwean ministry of finance shared the experience of his country, which has imposed an ‘AIDS levy’ on the income of formal employers and employees. This levy is poured into a National AIDS Trust Fund and used for the care and treatment of people living with HIV and other AIDS-related costs. This local fund is used to support rural health facilities.