ICASA bid gets President’s nod President Mnangagwa meets the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) delegation led by Dr Luke Armand Bodea (second from left) at State House in Harare yesterday — Pictures: Believe Nyakudjara

Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has pledged Government support for Zimbabwe’s bid to host the 22nd International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Illnesses in Africa (ICASA 2023) set for December next year.

ICASA demands that countries intending to host the conference must have approval from their Government’s highest authority before a bid can be formally considered.

It is against this background that ICASA director and co-ordinator of the secretariat of the Society for AIDS in Africa, Dr Luc Armand Bodea, met the President at State House in Harare yesterday to get his blessings before he and his team examine Zimbabwe’s bid.

President Mnangagwa’s nod means Zimbabwe will now join Kenya as the two official host candidates for ICASA 2023. The team has already assessed the eligibility of Kenya and final results are expected after the vetting of Zimbabwe.

Before meeting the President, the team had met Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who took the visiting delegation to President Mnangagwa.

“One of our primary requirements to organise ICASA is to have a commitment at the highest level of State,” said Dr Bodea after his meeting with President Mnangagwa.

“We have acknowledged today the commitment of the Head of State of Zimbabwe to host more than 12 000 delegates from across the world.

“We have five countries that placed their bids. But so far for the first election two countries came out which are Kenya and Zimbabwe. We have assessed Kenya already and now we are assessing Zimbabwe,” he said.

“His Excellency gave us a commitment from the Government of Zimbabwe that they are ready to host the ICASA as they have done before in 2015. We have also noticed that there are a lot of improvements at the airport. We noticed a lot of improvements,” said Dr Bodea.

VP Chiwenga said Victoria Falls would be the venue of the conference if Zimbabwe is chosen to host the conference it once hosted in 2015.

Victoria Falls has been upgraded to city status after several improvements and growth in tourism infrastructure and Government is confident of its capacity to host such an event after previously successfully hosting events of such magnitude such as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly.

“We have just concluded our meeting with Dr Bodea heading a delegation of ICASA. There is going to be a major conference in 2023 next year. There are only two countries left in the bid: Zimbabwe and Kenya. We think we have the capacity to hold this conference. We would want to finish and end the issue of AIDS by 2030.

“For us to end this, we as Africans must be united, hence the importance of this conference,” said VP Chiwenga.

“There will be so many delegates coming not only from Africa but from all over the world. We have offered to host it in Victoria Falls which has held such big conferences like the UNWTO and other conferences of high standards because we have all the facilities.

“Victoria Falls in no longer a town but a city, and we have made our commitments to the team as the Zimbabwe Government as we did in 2015 to make our contributions which might be required for the conference to be a success be it financial, human resources and all other technical things.”

Zimbabwe was congratulated by the United Nations for achieving the 90-90-90 targets in HIV control and now the country is seized with achieving the 95-95-95 targets by 2025.

This means 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 90 percent living with HIV who know their status are on antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of those on treatment have achieved viral suppression. Meeting these targets slashes death rates, and with the growing viral suppression and the high level of awareness of status and how to achieve suppression, also slashes transmission rates of HIV.

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