Reflections from ICASA 2013

I had the privilege of attending the recently held International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, ICASA 2013 in Cape Town South Africa, from the 7th - 11th of December 2013 as well as the ICASA Youth Pre-Conference from the 5th-6th of December.

The 2013 ICASA Youth Pre Conference was held under the theme "Now More Than Ever - Getting to Zero: "for youth, by youth, with youth". Discussions covered issues on Leadership, Accountability and Participation. The main ICASA conference served as a great advocacy platform mobilizing African communities, leaders and partners to increase ownership, commitment and support to the AIDS response. It provide a forum for exchange of knowledge, skills and best practices in Africa and from around the globe. It created opportunities to define priorities and set policy and programme agendas to enhance mobilisation and effective utilisation of resources.

For me, the pre and main conferences were something special. It was fascinating to see people of all walks of life from Anglophone and Francophone Africa come together for one common agenda: Getting To Zero New Infections; Zero AIDS related deaths and Zero Discrimination. The vast energy of young African activists and the resolve gotten to utilize the space for meaningful dialogue at ICASA was refreshing. Young people being vocal, leading sessions and committing to work together with government leaders and stakeholders to make actionable commitments. One delegate said: "Like Floppy disks, we must make HIV a thing of the past." 

There was a clarion call for young people to ensure that HIV is prominently included in the new post-2015 health and development agenda. Thus, I signed a petition calling for a specific Post 2015 sustainable development goal to end AIDS by 2030 at the ICASA 2013. Besides, we will put and call for accountability from national leaders on the commitments made to get to Zero. one2one youth programme will continue advocating for, and demonstrating the inclusion of young people in the HIV response for we understand that HIV doesn’t discriminate and neither will we. Strong and continued youth activism needs to continue in order to ensure inclusive and sustained AIDS responses throughout Africa. One2one youth programme will remain committed in demonstrating peer led programming and advocacy for we realize that Youth leadership is necessary in galvanizing a movement for social change and shaping the future of the AIDS response. 

I was also fortunate to represent my co-authors (Mutua F, Kibutha A, Kivindu F, Ngone P, Ajema C, Thiomi J & Wanjiru M) by making a poster presentation showcasing one2one™ as an integrated digital platform offering comprehensive quality SRH/ HIV/ GBV direct services & literacy to over one million adolescents & youth (10-24 years) in Kenya annually. 

My official Twitter handle @MrMaqC became a top fluencer of #ICASA2013 according to Symplur's Analytics. It also contributed to making the same hashtag dominate conversation in the Kenyan Twitter scene, thus making it a top trending topic during the conference period. If sexual networks facilitate HIV, then social networks may help stop it - social media for strengthening systems.