Zim Government allays ICASA 2023 accomodation fears

A senior Government official has rebuffed accommodation fears linked to the forthcoming edition of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) conference.

By Kuda Pembere

This reassurance comes amidst concerns that there would be a repeat of past experiences where delegates had to resort to other accommodation outside of the hotel.

Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Douglas Mombeshora told the media that it was all systems go.

So far we are budgeting with people we have invited and those who have confirmed. Those who have confirmed we have heard there are about 3 000 but we are saying we are prepared to host about 6 000 to 8 000,” he said.

He also advised delegates to book for accomodation early to avoid last-minute hassles.

Minister Mombeshora explained the 2015 experience was on the back of a clash of events between the conference and the Chinese President’s visit.

“I think in 2015 there was a coincidence where the Chinese President visited Zimbabwe around the same time it also disturbed the plans that were on the ground. But so far, we are happy with what is obtaining and unless we have on overwhelming number at the last minute which I don’t think will be excessive. So I can safely say we have enough accommodation at the moment,” he said.

He also noted that the budget for this year’s conference has been revised to around US$4 million.

“The revised budget is almost close to US$4 million. I do not have the breakdown of the figures,” Minister Mombeshora said.

National AIDS Council (NAC) operations director Mr Raymond Yekeye said the budget will also be inclusive of the tents for the Community Village and the exhibition.

“That takes care of the venue, the audio-visuals, equipment, equipment and all the IT equipment that is required. You know that in 2015 we had to include tents because Rainbow Towers was not able to accommodate the community village as well as the exhibition. We are going to go the same route. I think those are the costs that we will be looking,” he said.

ICASA scientific committee chairperson Professor Mike Chirenje said they will also recognise the country’s excellent research prowess as three young scientists will be awarded for their outstanding research work at the event. 

“The whole purpose of having a scientific committee is to really put up a robust scientific programme which is convincing and attractive. We put out a call for abstracts and these are driven by the fact that there is ongoing research. When we get these abstracts, we look at them thoroughly and they are put in thematic areas starting from basic science all the way to clinical medicine and public health and we sit as a committee to select the best,” he said.

“It is rigorous, so when we say we have one of the best programmes for HIV prevention and control, we really mean it. Our young scientists will be awarded. We have a merit system and there are about six best abstracts that we selected, and I am pleased to say that three of them are from Zimbabwe and they will be rewarded so that tomorrow they will be the leaders of science.”

Over 700 speakers are on the line of speakers amongst them the innovators behind the Malaria Vaccine.  ICASA director Mr Luke Bodea said a session there would be 245 sessions for the duration of the conference.

“The country is well prepared to host the 22nd edition of the ICASA. To date we have 3 000 confirmed delegates, but we expect that soon we will have more delegates signing up. We are expecting to host a minimum of 245 sessions and 735 speakers for the programme. At the opening session we will have one of the researchers talking about how they discovered the malaria vaccine,” he said.

Meanwhile, the World AIDS Day commemorations on 1 December 2023 will be held at Chinotimba Stadium in Victoria Falls running under the theme, “Let Communities Lead.”

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