HARARE – The 22nd edition of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in Africa (ICASA) kicked off here on Monday.

The regional event, the largest HIV and AIDS conference in Africa which runs from Dec 4 to 9, provides an important platform for sharing and experiencing cutting-edge evidence and lessons in response to HIV and other epidemics afflicting the continent and beyond.

In his keynote address during the official opening of the conference, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the event allows Africa to reflect on its ongoing response to HIV/AIDS.

“We should not relax, AIDS is not over. The pandemic remains one of the silent threats to sustainable socio-economic development,” he said.

“It is, however, commendable that we have made progress and positive outcomes through our robust interventions which are infusing the hope that we can indeed eliminate AIDS,” said Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe has made significant strides in reducing new HIV infections as well as AIDS-related deaths, said Mnangagwa.

He noted that the country has already achieved the 95-95-95 fast-track HIV/AIDS response target, which aims to diagnose 95 percent of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy for 95 percent of those diagnosed and achieve viral suppression for 95 percent of those treated by 2030.

Mnangagwa said there is a need to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic holistically, including through the implementation of sustainable development programs and projects to lift more people out of poverty and eradicate inequalities that may be triggering new infections among most at-risk groups.

“We are committed to addressing gaps and inequalities that exist in access to HIV services to sustain this progress and push back the HIV frontiers to end AIDS by 2030,” said Mnangagwa.