Dear Honorable members of the International Steering committee of ICASA 2017, dear representative of the government of Cote d’Ivoire, dear Representative of the Governor of Abidjan, dear Regional and country representative of the UN System, dear Representative of the ARNS, dear Representative of the AU, dear representative of various countries local and regional organizations, dear Honorable members of various scientific organizations and NGO’s, dear Honorable members of SAA, all protocol observed …
I would like to welcome you in the name of the ICASA 2017 organizers, on behalf of my colleague the Minister of Health and Public Hygiene, Dr. Goudou Coffie and myself, the President of the 19th edition of ICASA. However I would like to inform you, that my colleague Dr. Goudou Coffie, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene lost her beloved husband and could not be here with us today to open the first International Steering committee meeting. Indeed it is a very sad development to us because ICASA 2017 will always be associated with the loss of her beloved husband. I would like on behalf of the Society for AIDS in Africa and members of the ISC here and all over the world, present our deepest condolence to the family of the departed one and also specially to Dr. Goudou Coffie and her children and to the good people of Cote d’Ivoire. Let us give a minute of silence in remembrance of the departed soul. Dear ISC members, allow me to be very brief as the situation I was expecting to open this first steering committee meeting was very different because after more than 10 years we are back to Abidjan to organize the 19th Edition of ICASA, and under the normal circumstance this should call for celebration when you look back and noticed how much we gained in the struggle to end AIDS in Africa.
I am sure that some of you here present are having some memories of ICASA 1997 when the pandemic was at its peak in Africa. With a national prevalence rate estimated at 4.7%, Côte d’Ivoire was the most affected country of West Africa where the HIV/AIDS pandemic rose since 1985, when the first cases were discovered. The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is such that it represents the first cause of death for men and the second for women (UNICEF 2007 report). But over a decade the prevalence rate dropped to 3.2% and the challenge is to reach 2.7% according the UNAIDS strategy for 2016- 2021. However we as ICASA, the only platform where Africans can raise their voices are asking to move to zero prevalence rate in Africa. As Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS is always advocating that it is possible, please dear Steering committee members, your role today is to design the ICASA program towards this possibility and beyond, as Zero AIDS related death, Zero malaria, Zero Hepatitis for the years to come. It is the right platform to once more commit our leaders and government to redeem the 2001 Abuja declaration.
We are calling the AU to enforce Abuja declaration by not allowing countries that did not commit at least 15% of their national budget into health to seat at the AU general assembly, because Africa will never develop if we fail to fix our health system. Dear Members, it is indeed the right time for us to use this platform towards strengthening Africa health systems so that adequate responses should be given to new emerging diseases. ICASA is also a platform to address how to diversify innovative mechanisms to finance our health system towards a universal coverage. Dear Members, with your permission I would like to conclude by acknowledging here present one of the SAA’s founding members and ICASA 1997 President, Prof Kadio Auguste. He is very sober and indeed a great asset to our continent. Prof, Thanks for the job done. I wish you all a very successful deliberation.
Dr Ihab Ahmed