The Leadership of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA);
Members of the Executive Council of KwaZulu-Natal;
The Mayor of EThekwini, His Worship, Cllr Mxolisi Kaunda;
The Director-General of the Department of Health, Dr Sandile Buthelezi;
The Director-General of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize;
Senior Government Officials;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I take this opportunity to add my voice in welcoming you all to the warm, hospitable, and beautiful city of Durban.
Thank you for taking your time this morning to witness the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered by our national government through the Department of Health and the Society for Aids in Africa to host the 21st International Conference for AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) which will take place here at Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC from the 6th to the 11th of December 2021.
As a hosting province and city, we extend our gratitude to our national government for approving the hosting of this crucial conference. In KwaZulu-Natal, the provincial government endorsed Durban as a host city on the 11th of April 2021.
We look forward to hosting an impactful, memorable conference and to partner with the Society on AIDS in Africa (SAA). Since its founding in 1989, SAA has led from the front in mobilizing stakeholders to attain the vision of an Africa which is free of AIDS, TB, Malaria, and other diseases. We recognize the organisation’s significant role in the fight against the stigma and discrimination of People Living with HIV (PLHIV). SAA continues to be visible in campaigns for social justice and expansion of quality treatment, care and support for people living with HIV.
Notwithstanding the constraints brought about by Covid-19, we have no doubt that we will succeed in hosting a successful 21st International Conference for AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). The conference will bring together scientists, policy makers, communities, activists, and people living with HIV as we all rededicate ourselves to the ideal and promise of an AIDS-free Africa.
Holding ICASA 2021 in Durban is important for our province. We remain the province with the highest burden of HIV in South Africa. In this regard, this conference will help to galvanize all our stakeholders in KZN not to take the eye off the ball while we battle the deadly Covid-19.
We are happy also to host ICASA 2021 because KwaZulu-Natal will also be able to share its many successful stories, many of which are driven by communities themselves at grassroots level to turn the tide against HIV, AIDS, TB, and STIs.
This will be an opportunity also to examine our strategies and impact in reducing HIV infections in key populations as well as the vulnerable groups like girls and women aged between 15 and 24.
As we conclude Women’s Month today, we are reminded that gender inequality and patriarchy continue to be part of the structural drivers that fuel the spread of HIV. ICASA 2021 will provide KwaZulu-Natal with an opportunity to look at the economic empowerment opportunities that are designed to improve the economic status of girls and women in an effort to arrest the spread of HIV and STIs.
In memory of our late beloved Isilo, His Majesty King Goodwill ka Bhekuzulu, we also hope to use ICASA 2021 to share experiences with our continent and the world on the crucial role played by ubukhosi, the traditional leadership, in reducing STIs, advancing medical male circumcision, promoting HIV and TB testing, as well as fighting social stigma on HIV and TB. UHlangalomhlabathi, iMbube noma isilele yayikukhuthaza ukuziphatha kahle kwabantwana, ikakhulukazi abantwana bamantombazane.
As KwaZulu-Natal, we offer to deliver a successful conference in partnership with our national Department of Health, the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), as well as SAA. We have already appointed members of the KZN Local Organising Committee (LOC), and they have a clear programme that they are already implementing in preparation for the Conference.
We will welcome Africa and the world with the warm and friendly embrace of KwaZulu-Natal. Visitors who will attend in person will experience for themselves the elegance, beauty, culture, and rich heritage of the Zulu Kingdom.
ICASA 2021 could not have taken place at a better venue than this ICC which is named after Africa’s first Nobel Peace Laurette, Inkosi Albert Luthuli who received his award exactly sixty years ago.
The fight against STIs, TB, HIV, and stigma are important in building lasting peace in relationships, in homes, in communities, and in societies. As we gather in December, we will again be laying a firm foundation on building lasting peace, creating model citizenry, and in unleashing the full potential of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and Africa.
This is the time for Africa to scale up its response. It’s a time to accelerate, to strengthen collaboration, and to use evidence better to reach our targets.
Let us seize the moment and be known as the generation that delivered an AIDS-free Africa.
It is in our hands.
Indeed, better days are ahead of KwaZulu-Natal and the continent of Africa.
Let us work together for a Better Africa and a Better World.
Namukulekile Kwelika Mthaniya, Kwelika Phunga no Mageba.
I thank you.