First Lady launches new drive to end HIV prevalence in youth

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First Lady Jeannette Kagame in a group photo with PEPFAR coordinator Tracy Burns (L), UN Resident Coordinator Lamin Manneh (2ndL), and some of the rewarded mayors Erasme Ntazinda of Nyanza and Gerald Muzungu of Kirehe. (Courtesy)

The First Lady and Chairperson of Imbuto Foundation, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, officiated at the official launch of a new drive to end HIV prevalence among Rwandan youth.

Dubbed “All – In” Adolescent Campaign in Rwanda, it was launched yesterday at Petit Stade –in Remera, Kigali. 

Launched under the theme, “Ending adolescent HIV/AIDS in Africa for sustainable development,” the continental campaign is championed by the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), with the support of the ONE UN family and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

In Rwanda, the campaign is spearheaded by the Office of the First Lady through Imbuto Foundation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), One UN Family and PEPFAR.

The campaign seeks to explore possible ways of reaching adolescents in various capacities by engaging, mobilising and empowering them as leaders and actors of social change, placing adolescent HIV firmly on political agendas.

The campaign aims to unite decision-makers in order to accelerate reductions in AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections among adolescents by the year 2020, and is also part of the global effort to end AIDS disease for all by the year 2030.

According to the World Health Organisation, AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10 – 19 in Africa.

“We need to walk this journey of fighting HIV and AIDS together,” Mrs Kagame said.

“I call upon the youth to behave responsibly and parents to speak to their children about this disease,” she said, also encouraging people living with HIV to take their medication.

Rwanda’s HIV prevalence rates stabilised at 3 per cent for the last decade.

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Minister of Health Agnes Binagwaho speaks on the involvement of First Lady Jeannette Kagame in the fight against HIV_AIDS over the past several years

In terms of gender and location, evidence shows a higher HIV prevalence among women (3.7 per cent) than men (2.2 per cent) and a higher HIV prevalence in urban areas (7.1 per cent) like Kigali city than in rural areas (2.3 per cent).

Fighting HIV

Rwanda has seen a reduction by more than half in new infections, with the availability of services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus available in over 90 per cent of health facilities.

Paediatric antiretroviral drugs coverage however, is still low, estimated at only 44 per cent of all HIV-positive children in the country.

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UN Resident Coordinator Lamin Manneh speaks on the serious impact of the HIV_AIDS epidemic on the youth

“Of course, this is a big number of Rwandan population. We expect a lot from them (HIV-positive population); I wish to remind you that the government has set up all mechanisms to ensure youth prosper. It is therefore my plea, to everyone, including you, the youth and parents that, to be mindful of your life,” Mrs Kagame said.

The event drew about 2,500 youth from different districts, youth clubs and groups. 

Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the minister for youth and ICT, urged youth to “Stick to abstinence” or use condoms in order to fight HIV transmission.

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Minister of Youth & ICT Jean-Philbert Nsengimana delivers his welcoming remarks

“We look forward to a “happy generation”—a generation that has dreams; to love and serve themselves, the country, aiming at a better future,” Nsengimana said.

Sharing her testimony, Nadege Uwase, 25, said got to know about her HIV-positive status, when she was 16. At that time, she asked her parents, of the cause, only to be told that her mother had died of HIV/AIDS. 

“We decided to take my other two siblings for HIV testing, only to find out that they were all HIV-positive. My little brother died of HIV/AIDs in 2010,” she said.

Uwase is a member of Kigali Hope Association—a group that brings together HIV-positive youth.

“From the association, I gained a new family and a new hope to keep on. I studied Biology, in High school, and I now graduated with Bachelors in Botany and Environment Conservation at UR-Huye Campus,” she said.

“I am the new face of HIV but HIV does not determine me. I am not just the new face of HIV, but an activist; a scientist; an environmentalist and a lady with a bright future,” Uwase said.

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Nadege Uwase, a young positive shares her testimony on the importance of prevention, testing and treatment

Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the minister for health, lauded the First Lady for setting up mechanisms and campaigns to tackle HIV in Rwanda for the past 15 years.

Lamin Manneh, UN resident soordinator, also lauded the First Lady, through Imbuto Foundation, for empowering the youth and putting up mechanisms that seek to address the issue of HIV prevalence amongst Rwandan youth.

Speaking to the youth on the gravity of the disease for their demographic group, Manneh encouraged the youth to be responsible for their health, to know their status and protect themselves accordingly so they can fully enjoy their ‘beautiful country’.

Manneh concluded his remarks reiterating the support of the One UN family toward Rwanda’s efforts in ending this epidemic.

This launch also saw the mayors Erasme Ntazinda (Nyanza), Muzungu Gerald (Kirehe), Deogratias Nzamwita (Gakenke) and François Ndayisaba (Karongi), rewarded for their districts successfully implemented services aiming for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, as no child born of an HIV-positive mother was diagnosed with the virus, in the last two years.

 editorial@newtimes.co.rw