Rwanda offers free HIV treatment – CNLS official

• While more people come out for voluntary HIV testing The Communications Officer of the National Commission for the Prevention of HIV/Aids-CNLS Fulgence Kamari  has revealed that the government has established 345 health centres across the country in which free ARV’s are distributed.

• While more people come out for voluntary HIV testing

The Communications Officer of the National Commission for the Prevention of HIV/Aids-CNLS Fulgence Kamari  has revealed that the government has established 345 health centres across the country in which free ARV’s are distributed.

Speaking to the press on Monday, Kamari added that some people opt for the original ARV’s and, “it should be noted that there are enough ARV’s given free of charge for Rwandans that come forward to test.”

The government through the Aids Research and Treatment Centre-TRAC and funding from Global Fund and US President’s Emergency Plan to Prevent Aids provide free ARV’s to people who test positive for HIV the virus that causes Aids.

However the ARV’s supplied by government are World Health Organization recommended generic duplicates of the original ARV’s.

The originals are too expensive to be offered for free and so they are sold on the private market at whooping cost of  Frw 400,000 per year, a price many in need find too high to afford.

Most expenditure on Aids in the country goes to the purchase of ARV’s and other medicines for People Living With HIV/AIDS, Kamari said.

Kamari said that Rwanda had not organized any special ceremonies to commemorate the 2008 world Aids day saying that CNLS had held several activities earlier to mark the day, “three years ago we adopted a programme whereby we hold our World Aids Day on the last Saturday of the month of November when all the people are participating in the mandatory public service works-Umuganda. Here we have a chance to sensitize people about HIV and encourage them to come forward for voluntary testing and counseling.”

Despite these government efforts Some People Living with HIV/Aids, have decried the cost of Anti Retroviral drugs on the private market.

“Its too costly for me, and sometimes I need to supplement on the free dose provided by government,” said Giles Rubaara of Kigali City.

Rubaara, a resident of Gikondo said that he preferred to purchase the ARV’s supplied on the private market instead of the free ARV’s offered by government in public health centres. He has been living with HIV/Aids for the past six years.

Commenting on the significance of World Aids day, World Bank Senior Health Specialist Miriam Schneidman said that in Rwanda there has been a “massive increase in the number of people that have come to be tested, and as access to AIDS treatment has scaled up people have become more accepting of those living with AIDS.”

While access to antiretroviral treatment has improved markedly, now reaching about 30 percent of those who need it.” She however added that more effort was needed to increase ARV supply to all the people who need it.

Schneidman said many events have been organized to highlight the importance of the fight these include the International Conference on AIDS and STI’s in Africa, taking place in Senegal, December 3-7.

The World Bank through its Multi Country Approach programme-MAP and US international Aid Development agency-USAID are among the leading financiers of the fight against HIV/Aids.

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