With the ravaging impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the travel and tourism sectors across the globe, Uganda’ tourism sector might be a its way to recovery as it is set to host Africa’s largest International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA).
According to newvision.co.ug, stakeholders believe that the biggest beneficiary will be the tourism sector, estimating that the conference will attract about 10,000 people physically.
“This conference will bring in added benefits such as promoting our national image, our tourism and our economy as a whole. Remember we just opened the airport to tourism. So this will be a big boost to our nation,” said Florence Namboozo, the chairperson of the HIV committee in Parliament.
Namboozo who was speaking at a national stakeholder meeting with the ICASA Director, Dr Luc Armand Bodea, at Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo on Monday, said that on top of boosting the economy, the conference will give Uganda the opportunity to showcase its achievements in the fight against HIV and AIDS including achievements under the Presidential Fast Track Initiative on Ending AIDS.
“Uganda has been a global leader in the fight against AIDS and we have a lot to share with Africa and the whole world and we are also looking forward to learning from them,” she noted.
The meeting was held to discuss the Country’s preparedness to host the conference in December 2021. Uganda beat off stiff competition from the other five African countries last year to win the bid to host ICASA.
It has been organized since 1990 to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS with a vision for an African continent free of HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and the debilitating effects which these diseases have on communities.
It provides an opportunity for political leaders, scientists, researchers, policymakers, advocates, and youth to disseminate new information/knowledge, celebrate successes, and identify the next steps towards reaching the goal of ending AIDS by 2030.
Dr. Bodea said on top of the economic benefit the country will reap from the five-day conference, the event will also give a platform for new knowledge sharing in the fight against HIV.
He noted that with proper treatment, People Living with HIV now live longer and this is presenting new challenges especially in terms of managing the disease in old age.
He said the conference will attract over 250 presentations and among them will be one on HIV and ageing.
Due to COVID-19, the event will be hybrid whereby some of the attendees will be allowed to follow the conference virtually while those who will travel to Uganda will be required to present with COVID-19 negative certificates and observe the protocols on prevention of virus spread.
The pandemic, according to Bodea has delayed preparations for the conference. The preparatory meeting which was to be held in June 2020, has been pushed to December 2020.
He said that the preparatory meeting will be held to among other things decide on the conference theme, logo, objectives, strategy, and fund mobilization.
“People are eager to come to Uganda for the conference. I am happy to announce that progress has been made on both the International and Regional levels in publicizing the conference and setting up structures for the preparations of the Steering Committee Meetings and the conference,” he said.
Dr. Nelson Musoba, the director-general Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC), said that the country was ready to host the conference despite the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“A National Steering Committee has been formed that will be chaired by the Minister for the Presidency; we have also formed a National Technical Working Group and a Secretariat. In addition, Ugandans have been nominated to serve on the International Steering Committee by the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA),” he stated.
He observed that this will be an opportunity for science to be shared by different categories of people, scientists, politicians, activists, and people who have been in the HIV response.
This is the second time Uganda is hosting the ICASA conference. The first time was in 1995 where Uganda was hailed for its response to HIV/AIDS, especially in fighting Stigma and Discrimination of People Living with HIV.