ICASA 2017: Optimal HIV treatment for ALL

As the 2017 International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) draws to a close in Abidja, Cote d’Ivoire, we recap on some of the highlights.

We’ve been proud to represent the campaign and treatment activists at ICASA (4-9 Dec 2017), as part of ITPC, along with our HIV, health and rights comrades from across the region and the world.

The conference theme ‘Ending AIDS-delivering differently’ is broad, as a multifaceted approach is necessary in tackling the epidemic. We know the treatment exists for people to live healthy fulfilled lives with HIV, and prevent new infections, so our priority was to share the message of ‘optimal treatment for all’ and highlight the barriers to treatment access.

Highlights included:

  • #FixTheDeal! On day 1 (4 Dec) during a session hosted by the World Health Organization, ITPC MENA and allies called on the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Gates Foundation and others to increase access to dolutegravir, which presents an new optimal HIV treatment. A pricing deal announced in September omits 29 countries, meaning millions could be left behind from treatment advances and the improved quality of life that brings.
  • Marching for Algeria! On 5 December, led by ITPC MENA and the Regional Treatment Observatory in West Africa, activists drew attention to the fact that ViiV Healthcare has excluded Algeria from a voluntary license which includes all other countries in Africa. It’s an issue that ITPC MENA has been discussing with ViiV for two years to no avail. We urge the government of Algeria to issue a compulsory license that would accelerate access to the drug.
  • Security block our “Access denied” banner.

    Access Denied. Hotel and conference security prevented activists from entering the venue both during the demo and up to five hours later. The conference is dedicated to tackling the region’s HIV epidemic, and community voices are key to the solutions, so it absurd to ban activists, not least when they’re campaigning on how access is being denied to people living with HIV.

  • Watch What Matters. On day 3 (6 Dec) participants gathered at the Treatment Networking Zone, hosted by the regional Community Treatment Observatory in West Africa for a community dialogue. Sessions in this zone covered a range of treatment access issues, including intellectual property and community monitoring. Find out more at www.watchwhatmatters.org
  • Assess your law. ITPC MENA gave an oral presentation on the assessment it has carried out in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, on the intellectual property landscape and its impact on access to medicines. The tool used can also be replicated so people in other countries can assess their context and benchmark against other countries that do the same. Find out more here.

For ongoing conference highlights, and a round-up from the final day follow ITPC on Facebook and Twitter.

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