news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: HIV/AIDS Conference

Africa: HIV/AIDS Conference
Date distributed (ymd): 990915
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+ +gender/women+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts from several messages concerning the Eleventh International Conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA), now taking place in Lusaka, Zambia, including statements by African governments, NGO networks and a keynote speech by a woman living with HIV/AIDS. Extensive additional information, updated frequently, can be found in the archives of the af-aids discussion forum at:

In related news, the multinational Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMA) has temporarily suspended its legal action against the South African government concerning South Africa's law on import and manufacture of essential medicine. AIDS activists, however, warn that the dispute over the draft law is not yet over

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


The Eleventh International conference on AIDS and STDs in Africa (ICASA)
Looking into the Future : Setting priorities for HIV/AIDS in Africa,
Zambia - 12 to 16th September 1999

AF-AIDS - Message 374

12 Sep 1999

Ten African Nations Declare AIDS a National Disaster

The Heads of State and government representatives of Ten African Nations today declared AIDS a national disaster. One after the other they spelled out how the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in their countries has reached such a scale that it is now without question their biggest single threat to national and regional development.

The early morning meeting of Prime Ministers, Vice Presidents and Ministers of Health from Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, took place today in Lusaka. One of the aims was to make a clear political statement on HIV/AIDS during the ICASA conference, taking place in Zambia this week.

At the finale of the conference opening ceremony the declaration was read aloud to participants - it was a resounding call for more intense and coordinated efforts to fight the epidemic throughout Africa.

Among the government comments recognising the magnitude of the epidemic, the declaration openly states that 'HIV/AIDS is a national disaster in our countries, requiring an emergency response'. The government leaders committed themselves to make HIV & AIDS a priority in all development programmes at the regional, national and community levels, and to address the 'gap between declarations and their implementation' in a realistic way.

The declaration should do a lot to alleviate doubts about whether governments in the region have the will and commitment to respond to the epidemic forcefully.

Some participants left the session commenting on the irony that so many speeches about political commitment were made by Vice Presidents and Ministers of Health, rather than by Premiers. The absence of the Zambian President at a regional conference held in Lusaka was mentioned in particular, and a source close to the conference organisers said they were 'shattered' by his last-minute pull-out.

The full text of the declaration follows:

Declaration on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic at the XI-ICASA

We, the Heads of State and Government attending the XI International Conference on AIDS & STDs in Africa, held in Lusaka from 12th to 16th September 1999:


  • That the HIV/AIDS crisis has become a fundamental factor in Africa affecting Africa's economic and social prospects for the future;
  • That the HIV epidemic follows human migratory patterns and therefore has no respect for human boundaries;
  • That the HIV/AIDS crisis exerts undue pressure on limited infrastructure, resources and impacts negatively on productivity thereby affecting developmental programmes and economic growth;
  • That millions of Africans in their reproductive and productive age are HIV positive;
  • That HIV is a serious threat to human development, depleting most educated, energetic and productive segment of our population thus draining human capital development;
  • That millions of children are orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS;
  • That the HIV/AIDS crisis requires an emergency response;
  • That there has been a gap between declaration and their implementation;


  • HIV/AIDS is a national disaster in our countries requiring and emergency response;
  • That HIV/AIDS is a multi-dimensional problem requiring a multi-sectoral approach.

Commit ourselves:

  1. To providing political leadership by increasing resources made available to the response and providing an appropriate policy and a legal environment;
  2. To making HIV/AIDS a priority in all development programmes at the regional, national and community levels;
  3. To supporting the introduction of policies and programmes that will raise awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS that will culminate in behaviour change;
  4. To encourage dialogue, at all levels, on issues related to HIV/AIDS, that will facilitate an open and supportive environment for people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

To this end and 'Looking into the Future', we undertake:

  1. To call upon regional and sub-regional structures such as: OAU, ECA, SADC, ADB, ECOWAS, COMESA and the East Africa Community, to put in place institutional frameworks that will bridge the gap between declarations and the implementation of declarations;
  2. To facilitate the development the development of health policies that will build on the vast indigenous knowledge and practice that will strengthen collaboration between medical practitioners of traditional medicine;
  3. To encourage technical experts to undertake relevant research on HIV/AIDS and implement their findings;
  4. To encourage direct regional and bilateral sharing of experiences on lessons learnt in responding to AIDS;
  5. To call on bilateral and multi-lateral partners to support the intensified action to curtail the spread of HIV by augmenting the level of their support commensurate with the scale of the disaster;
  6. To support the International Partnership Against AIDS in Africa.

[Moderator's note: OAU - Organisation for African Unity, ECA - Economic Commission of Africa, SADC - Southern African Development Community, ADB - Afican Development Bank, ECOWAS - Economic Commission of West African States]

AF-AIDS - Message 379
13 Sep 1999

Community Forum
XI-ICASA Lusaka, Zambia

InterContinental Hotel, 10-11 September 1999

During the ICASA opening, Mustapha Gueye (ENDA, Senegal) and Lynde Francis (The Centre, Zimbabwe) presented a summary of the community forum that took place for two days before the conference.

The forum focused on two critical issues: treatment access and participation by the communities in the Partnership Against AIDS in Africa.

AF-AIDS/ICASA Key Correspondent Team

"We are providing a voice for the many millions of front-line workers throughout the continent who cannot be here today, but who are here with us in spirit.

The response to AIDS in Africa has depended heavily on the courageous men and women who have been looking after their families, children and the ones we love. Despite our efforts, there remains a strong element of fear that continues to manifest itself in denial, rejection and unnecessary suffering", said Mr. Gueye in his introduction.

"We had great difficulty getting here, and it was very painful to watch so much of our energy and resources being wasted simply to secure us a place at this conference. We had hoped that we had learnt from the difficult experiences of previous conferences, but that was not to be. However, the networks are committed to ensuring that this voice continues to ring out - loud and clear", he asserted.

"Transparency of the decision-making process and accountability among all of us here is paramount to our efforts. We cannot stand here every two years and continue to hold these discussions as we have done in the past. We are falling behind the rest of the world in many areas".

The Community Forum - Summary Report XI-ICASA, September 1999

The Forum was organized by the African Council of AIDS Service Organizations (AfriCASO), the Network of Zambian People Living with HIV/AIDS (NZP+), the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS-Africa (ICW-Africa), the Network of African People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAP+), and the Society of Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA).

240 key frontline community workers and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWAs) to exchange and discuss common concerns of people living with HIV & AIDS or affected by the epidemic on the African continent, and to establish strategies for the future. The theme was, "Looking into the Future: Community Perspectives".

First introduced at the Yaounde Conference in 1992, the Community Forums have been growing in importance as a key opportunity for the community AIDS movement in Africa to sharing information and strategies, to build skills, and to develop consensus around specific issues.

This year's forum concentrated on two major components: Accessing effective HIV/ AIDS Treatment & Care within the human rights framework; and The International Partnership against HIV/AIDS in Africa.

1. Accessing effective HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care

Keynote speeches by Lynde Francis (ICW-Africa) and Winstone Zulu (NZP+) on the issues opened the discussion which was undertaken in working groups. In the working groups, the Forum participants identified the major barriers and constraints that need to be overcome. Key issues that were raised included: * inadequate and unclear policies on HIV/AIDS made treatment and care a difficult issue for implementation at national level; * the weight of the dominant models; * the impact of socio and cultural blockages; * limited capacities in term of resource mobilization, planning, advocacy skills and understanding of human right issues.

A consensus emerged that we cannot talk about access to treatment without talking in the same breath about human rights. All our countries are signatories to international treaties and conventions that enshrine the right to health, the right to share scientific advancement, the right to found a family, and the right to education, to name a few. Access to treatment, for instance, also means disseminating information about affordable, available, appropriate methods of preventing disease progression.

In the keynote by Ms. Francis, the lack of adequate funding of the public health care system was summed by eloquently with: "How can governments continue to afford guns but run out of TB treatment?"

However, the Forum participants also recognized that some successes have been achieved in some countries:

* political commitment; * better involvement of people infected and affected; * better understanding of multisectoralism; and, * a growing place of networks among the different actors at the community level, and with other stakeholders.

2. The International Partnership against HIV/AIDS in Africa

The participants, were committed to establish - through panels and group workshops - a comprehensive diagnosis of the current situation and the progress made to date by analyzing constraints and successes, then - inspired by their experiences - proposed recommendations in term of strategies to overcome the barriers and to "Setting Priorities Into the Future".

Feedback from a Community meeting held in Dakar (August 30-31, 1999), organized by AfriCASO and UNAIDS, formed the basis of the review of the goals of the Partnership.

The working groups identified two key areas as ways to move ahead:
a. that with few resources we can realize big results; and, b. the linkages between human rights and HIV/AIDS are more easily understood when translated in the daily life of affected communities.

A consensus emerged that the major challenge - NOW - is to ensure that the promises and partnership mechanisms established during these conferences must:

* Bring the affected communities perspectives to the international policy makers and players such as multi-nationals drug companies. * Make sure the question of access to drugs is no longer taboo. It is now increasingly on the agenda although this is not adequate. * What is needed is a partnership at all levels. An effective African partnership should not be limited to the global level: it must also be regional and national including all sectors (public, private, NGO, communities, families, PLHA, etc). * When rooted at the local level, this partnership should be sustainable. * The resources are inadequate. Governments are negotiating with donors, but little, if any, of these resources is transferred to community action at the grassroots level. * Alliances need to be formed with NGOs as they too have a role to play. The result of the Forum's deliberations should be shared with ICASA and included in future strategies for addressing HIV/AIDS.

A final consensus emerged at the end of the Forum:

Firstly, there is an urgent need for all African countries to immediately declare AIDS a national disaster. This Declaration needs to be unequivocal and must carry behind it all of the resources - human and financial - that our countries can muster. Without this commitment, our efforts look hollow.

Secondly, there is the need to translate the current promises into action. And here our reference is about turning the vague concept of partnership into concrete action. The inclusion and participation of the community sector requires resources to fully participate.

Thirdly, there is the need to respect and promote human rights principles for all of our work in HIV/AIDS. There were many issues raised that we can classify within the right to health and the right to share in the scientific advancements.

In conclusion, a final message regarding the African conferences was raised by many participants. There was consensus that African community networks need to be strengthened to re-emphasize the role of the community sector in policies affecting them at the local, national and regional levels, particularly regarding how the conferences are organised. The networks will need to take the messages and conclusions of the Forum beyond this conference and work with the various key actors in Africa to promote the issues raised by the Forum.

"We know that adequate access [to treatment and care] is complex; everything is complex. But we must start from the basic principle that basic health care systems must be funded to ensure quality, community-based care and treatment that saves lives", said Lynde Francis in conclusion.

AF-AIDS - Message 381
14 Sep 1999

The Voice of the New African Woman

  • AF-AIDS/ICASA Key Correspondent Team

Plenary Session: Monday 13 September 1999

Brigitte Syamalevwe

Brigette, as the first PLWHA speaker of the official conference scientific program, received a standing ovation for her plenary speech this morning. She had also spoken at the MTCT symposium earlier in the week. She opened her talk, refusing to be a statistic or material for research. She wondered if she was asked to speak because there were no others or because she had a story to tell. She said that although she did not represent all African women, she was "part and parcel" of African woman's experience. She referred to a Bantu saying: "I am because you are, therefore we are."

"When I was infected in the early nineties, I was an adult, professional woman, a wife, a mother and an active individual in my community, which means HIV/AIDS found me an already formed person having a set of values, character, behaviours, principles etc."

She shared part of her story - deciding to test for HIV although she was not considered to be in a high risk group, deciding to disclose to her children and husband because "secrecy makes us fail to relate to others," and deciding to have her baby although she had tried not to become pregnant. Women in our communities, she said, often have to wait for their partner or clan to decide for them -- but she decided to take a personal decision.

Her unity ritual at the start reinforced her message about the importance of her spiritual rebirth when she discovered she was positive in 1992. Her journey, she said, has been an "on-going struggle for self identity and purpose."

Self-awareness, she said, is vital to living positively as a woman in Africa, due to the cultural norms that put women in a position to be told what to do and then dismissed. She talked about the intellectual competency denied to women -- that women are expected to be told and dismissed, and are perceived as a threat when they want to talk. She pointed to an example of sexual restriction from a workshop she attended in 1994 where "we asked for sex from our partners and discussed the result in our next meeting -- from all 23 women, all but one, we were abused verbally or physically by our spouses."

"I live in a society that expects me as a woman to be obedient, faithful, a custodian of culture and the same society that turns a blind eye, if not encourages, men to be unfaithful. A society where my worth is attached to my ability to bear children....If women cannot be respected even in discussing light matters, what more serious talk in negotiation of sex."

"The ridiculous incorrect image of a woman in Africa is one of the surest recipes for extinction."

She talked about the importance of keeping healthy -- living in the 'now', taking time to rest, managing emotional health, and avoiding infection. She mentioned that in her community, like many others, it is customary to visit sick friends, but she has stopped doing this because she wants to prevent infection. She has broken a customary expected practice

She talked briefly about the availability and access to drugs and said if only we could remember what we had been taught: "if only we could share, we could all have access to essential drugs." And she challenged men to respect the other half of the world -- women -- and engage in the dialogue of negotiating safe sex.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

URL for this file: