GENEVA, Switzerland, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ — For the first time in history, Somali National AIDS Commissions*, with technical and financial support from International Organization for Migration (IOM), were represented at the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA).
“IOM is grateful to be part of supporting Somali AIDS responses to be known to the world through ICASA. This representation was historical and significant as it offered the international community valuable experiences and lessons learnt from conflict and post-conflict settings,” said Ali Abdi, IOM Somalia Chief of Mission.
Held during 07-11 December 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa, ICASA is the largest International HIV and AIDS conference in Africa. Over 7,000 leading scientists, policy makers, government leaders, people living with HIV and AIDS, national AIDS Commissions, United Nations (UN) agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), private sector, donors and research institutes attended the biennial conference being held under the theme “Now More Than Ever: Targeting Zero”.
IOM sponsored a booth for the Somali National AIDS Commissions at which they showcased achievements of their AIDS responses and interacted with conference delegates to learn lessons from other countries, in order to contribute to strengthening the effectiveness of their AIDS responses.
Since 2008, IOM, in close partnership with Somali National AIDS Commissions and Joint UN Team on AIDS (JUNTA) in Somalia, has been contributing to the fight against AIDS by providing technical assistance, conducting epidemiological research, and implementing prevention projects through an evidence-informed, migrant-friendly and human-based approach.
For instance, during 2010-2012, IOM, in partnership with 18 NGOs, has implemented a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) HIV prevention and stigma reduction programme targeting hard-to-reach mobile key and bridging populations such as sex workers, truck drivers, uniformed services.
Some of the achievements include training a total of 108 peer educators on HIV awareness and 60 peer educators on sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) awareness and micro loan management, conducting HIV sensitization workshop for a total of 5,110 at-risk and vulnerable women, port workers, truck drivers, uniformed personnel, migrants and internally displaced persons and, as well, training 60 vulnerable women as “Women’s Advocates” on modes of HIV transmission, SGBV and the right to health.
In addition, IOM, in collaboration with various partners, has been conducting several studies on HIV epidemic in various parts of the countries that contributed to the national AIDS responses.
Most notably, in 2008, IOM conducted an Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance (IBBS) Survey, a ground-breaking epidemiological study which identified priority populations where the HIV epidemic is concentrated. The study was published in a leading peer review journal, AIDS in July 2010. IOM is also currently conducting another round of IBBS Survey, which is expected to contribute to the new National Strategic Plan and publish in 2014.
In this context, the Somali national responses in this conference drew special attentions from the international community as their responses as well as epidemiological data have not been well articulated in international venues in the past.
Addressing HIV and AIDS is an integral part of IOM’s migration health programme. Established in 2010, the programme contributes to the UN Millennium Development Goals by pushing for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
*The Somali National AIDS Commissions are: Somaliland National AIDS Commission (SOLNAC), Puntland AIDS Commission (PAC), and South Central AIDS Commission (SCAC).