21st International Aids Conference reaffirmed

2016-04-13 06:00
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DURBAN’S readiness to host the 21st International Aids Conference was reaffirmed on 8 April as government leaders, civic organisations, Aids activists, academics and eThekwini residents, joined hands during a colourful parade through the city’s streets, preaching the message of eliminating the disease by 2030.
The event marked 100 days to the start of the five-day conference to be held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from 18 to 22 July.
The parade, led by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu, began at King Dinuzulu Park and proceeded to the Gugu Dlamini Park where speakers from all spheres of government and Aids organisations delivered crucial awareness messages about the virus.
Mchunu was accompanied by members of the Provincial Executive Council, eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo, members of eThekwini Executive Committee and councillors.
The 13th International Aids Conference was held in Durban in 2000, which was the first time the conference was held on African soil.
Its return to the city is highly significant, as the 2000 conference was pivotal in focusing the world's attention on the impact of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa and fundamentally changing the course of the epidemic on the continent.
Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa extended the presidency’s support and said the country has come a long way towards curbing the spread of HIV.
“Today we offer anti-retroviral treatment to over three million people who are living with Aids and we are pleased that mother to child transmission of the disease has been drastically reduced,” he said in pre-recorded message screened at Gugu Dlamini Park.
Delivering the keynote address, Mchunu made a commitment that KwaZulu-Natal and eThekwini would not just be hosts, they would make a meaningful contribution in the discussions aimed at finding lasting solutions to HIV and Aids.
Co-chair of the 21st International Aids Conference, Professor Olive Shisana, explained why it was important to step up efforts of driving awareness of the virus.
“The country has achieved a lot in this fight, but we want to make sure that things happen fast, and now. In the upcoming conference we need to ask ourselves how we can work together towards faster and effective solutions of ending HIV and Aids,” she said.
With over 20 000 delegates expected to descend on the city during the conference, a major boost to the local economy is expected.
Nxumalo said hosting the conference will have positive spin-offs for the city. He said an injection of R700 million and a 90% hotel occupancy rate has been projected during the conference week.
He said it was apt that the conference was being held in KwaZulu-Natal, which has one of the highest incidences of HIV infection in the country.
A candle-lighting ceremony took place at Gugu Dlamini Park in memory of those affected and infected with HIV, and to light the flame of hope towards an HIV-free South Africa.
- Supplied.

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