Youth RISE Nigeria member Seyi Kehinde was in attendance at the 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) held in Kigali, Rwanda. The theme of the conference was AIDS FREE AFRICA – Innovation, Community, and Political Leadership. With a review of the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets scheduled for next year, the conference provided an opportunity to review the efforts made so far to achieve these targets.

The following were outlined as the main targets of the conference:

  • Promote community, scientific, and technological innovations for ending AIDS.
  • Advocate for financing sustainable national health responses, political leadership, and accountability.
  • Advocate for strengthened health systems and multi sectorial collaboration to integrate co-morbidities, emerging infections and NCDs.
  • Rethink gender norms, human rights-based approaches and inclusion towards equitable and accessible HIV and AIDS services including Key populations.
  • Promote youth-driven and youth-friendly approaches for an AIDS-free generation.

Seyi made a poster presentation – Introducing PhotoVoice as an Advocacy tool for Promoting Harm Reduction and HIV prevention among People Who Inject Drugs in Nigeria. This was the outcome of research conducted among people Who Inject Drugs in Abuja, Nigeria and aimed to document their realities and generate evidence in advocating for a public health and human rights approach to drug use. During his session, he gave participants an overview of the drug use problem in Nigeria and spoke on the efficacy of PhotoVoice, which is a qualitative and participatory tool, in driving evidence-based advocacy. It was also an opportunity to share experiences and engage in other drug policy discourse with delegates.

The conference itself was underwhelming in its efforts to cater to the needs and concerns of people who use drugs in the discussions, with only 2 of the over 200 sessions being dedicated to harm reduction. While the conference provides ample opportunity for discussion on the successes and failures of HIV intervention on the continent it is clear significant progress needs to be made to include people who use drugs in the discussions.