Saturday, 12 January 2008

Third Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights

No less than 500 delegates from over 25 countries will come together in Abuja, Nigeria for this year's 3rd Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights. The event from January 3-7 will be held at the prestigious Abuja International Conference Centre and features a keynote address from Elizabeth Mataka, the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on HIV in Africa.

Convened by Action Health Incorporated (AHI) under the sponsorship of the African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights, the conference will examine the interrelationships between poverty and sexuality and how the issue of accountability affects sexual health and social well-being in Africa. Special attention will be granted to the issue of accountability including fiscal responsibility in sexual health and rights work, ensuring equality of access to sexual health information, participation of target populations in programming, rehabilitation of victims of rights abuses, and the empowerment of disenfranchised and vulnerable populations.

Dr. Uwem Esiet, Convener, African Federation for Sexual Health and Rights, said that the main goal of the conference is to catalyze understanding of sexuality, both within and outside the continent. His words: "It is a singular opportunity to reflect on where we are as far as sexuality is concerned and to assess our personal and organizational accountability to improving our understanding of sexuality."

Reducing maternal mortality is part of the focus of the conference, with presentations on maternal mortality which would enable participants who are interested in reducing maternal deaths to see what has worked in the past and apply these methods in their home countries and communities, while, at the same time, downsizing what has not worked.

"We should not necessarily have to die or suffer as we exercise our sexuality," commented Esiet. "We should stick up for the woman, for the positive sexuality practices that fulfill our lives to procreate safely."

Youth involvement is also at the core of the conference, with side events such as youth sexuality discussions and youth capacity events sponsored by IPPF, IPAS, IWHC, and AHI to promote dialogue between adults and youth on sensitive issues such as sexuality education, sexual violence and abuse, gender roles and traditional practies. Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, Director-General of the Nigeria National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), will lead the range of panel discussions as Conference Patron.

The 3rd Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is preceded by the 2nd Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights held in Nairobi, Kenya from June 19-21, 2006.

By Amanda Hale

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