Steave Nemande at the Closing Ceremony of ICASA in Dakar

The International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA) is the single most important gathering on HIV and AIDS in Africa. A biannual event, ICASA brings together key HIV stakeholders from all sectors, giving them the opportunity to evaluate current work, exchange new ideas and new scientific information, share stories of challenges and successes, and plan for the future. ICASA is also an opportunity for the presentation of strategies and policies—of governments and non-governmental organizations—that will influence AIDS programming in Africa for the coming years. There has been a noticeable lack of attention to issues relevant to non-heteronormative sexualities and to gender identity at ICASA. LGBT issues are pushed to the sidelines as a result of stigma, discrimination and denial.

At the 2001 meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, there was virtually no discussion of homosexuality. By the 2003 meeting in Nairobi, organizers had included discussions of HIV risk among homosexuals on two panels and a group of interested civil society organizations held an ad hoc breakout session outside of the conference venue. At the 2009 ICASA meeting, held in Dakar, Senegal, IGLHRC worked with conference leadership and the African LGBT community to ensure greater visibility for LGBT issues.

Dr. Steave Nemande, a self-identified gay man and chairperson of Alternatives-Cameroon, was invited to speak at the closing plenary as the representative of civil society. This was the first time that an openly gay man has been an invited speaker at any major official African forum. Watch his speech here.