EVA at ICASA: the Highlights
This year, EVA participated in the 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) themed “AIDS FREE AFRICA- Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership” which was held in Rwanda from the 2nd – 7th December 2019. The conference was an opportunity to highlight the diverse nature of the Africa region’s HIV epidemic and its unique response to it, and for EVA to engage with representatives from other African countries and the international community to present their innovative programming in response to the HIV epidemic in Nigeria. The conference was also a moment for researchers from around the world to share the latest scientific advances in the field of HIV, learn from one another’s expertise, and develop strategies for advancing all facets of their collective efforts to end AIDS by 2030.
During the conference, EVA presented a shadow report on HIV prevention; made a poster presentation on strengthening the capacity of adolescents and young people in accessing HIV and SRHR information and services; co-facilitated the Youth Special Session titled Facing the Law: the age of consent for adolescents to access HIV and other SRHR services; participated in the AIDSfonds Booth session where EVA Youth Advocate was invited to share how she Supports Disclosure For Children and Adolescents Living With HIV; and moderated a session titled; Put the last mile first- Making Universal Health Coverage (UHC) work for vulnerable populations.
The “HIV Prevention Shadow Report – 2019” was presented by Ekanem Itoro. The report showed new data on the HIV epidemic and what needs to be done to decrease new infections in Nigeria. In collaboration with other civil society organizations, the research was carried out to track achievements and identify challenges with regards to HIV prevention in Nigeria. Following his presentation, the following recommendations among others were made to ensure Nigeria meet the global and national targets in response to HIV prevention;
- Create youth-friendly policies that include Diversity and Inclusion as part of its core value during formulation and implementation as well as opportunities that allow young people into decision making spaces and be part of all processes of policy review, formulation, implementation, and monitoring.
- In line with the target set in Nigeria’s national HIV prevention strategy, substantially increase funding for prevention, allocating resources for the implementation of combination prevention services for all marginalized groups. This needs to include funding for groups led by key populations, as these organizations are in a better position to provide accessible and effective services to the most marginalized. Clarify plans for the government’s transition from donor funding to a domestically funded HIV response.
- Commit to creating a more enabling environment for the people most at risk of acquiring HIV. This includes prevention interventions that address stigma and discrimination and that tackle other barriers. A key step to creating an enabling environment for young people and adolescents will be ensuring that the National Council on Health approves lowering the age of consent for access to HIV testing, while for key populations this also requires changing laws that criminalize sex work, homosexuality, and drug use. etc.
During the session on strengthening the capacity of adolescent and young people in accessing HIV and SRHR
information and services in Nigeria, Deborah Mamman, a member of EVA Youth
Advocacy Group made a poster presentation where she shared her experience as a safe space facilitator.
Oluwatoyin Chukwudozie, Team Lead Advocacy and Policy Influencing co-facilitated a Youth Special Session titled “Facing the Law; the age of consent for adolescents to access HIV and other SRHR services”. In her presentation, she mentioned some of the challenges in addressing the age of consent to access HIV and SRH services as thus;
- No systematic review of laws and policies
- Laws including related laws, policies and guidelines often reflect moral values of the colonial era rather than contemporary understandings
- Lack of disintegrated data on adolescents health needs, taboo subject, among others.
She further said that to end AIDS in 2030, “we need to be radical in our interventions. If we do not take away age barriers, we are not going to make it”
Joy Oboyi had an opportunity to share her thought on the need to support disclosure for children and adolescents living with HIV
In addition to our participation in other events at the conference, Olabukunola Williams, our Executive Director moderated a session that explored the meaningful inclusion of key and vulnerable populations as a game-changer in
achieving UHC by 2030. The session titled, “Put the last mile first: making UHC work for key and vulnerable populations” brought together other donor agencies, representatives of governments, organizations, stakeholders and young people across the globe
EVA is excited to be one of the organizations in Africa continent pushing for structural intervention that focuses on adolescents girls and young women in the HIV response.