Getting tested and knowing that you have HIV/Aids is not when your death clock starts counting. However, not knowing at all could make you lead a short and unfulfilled life. You may die of ignorance rather than AIDS. Because this one, you can live with, when you are well aware of what you are up for. This was noted by Charlene Dusenge, Ambassador of Association of Youth with HIV/Aids at the celebration of World Aids Day for the 34th time, which took place on November 30, at Huye Stadium in the southern province. ALSO READ: Youth speak out ahead of World AIDS Day Dusenge, 28 years old, was born with HIV. She is a graduate and an electrical technician by profession. Citing her own example, she said, “The virus doesn’t limit my capacity to dream and achieve my goals. Instead, being aware of my situation and intentionally following my doctors’ guidelines, gives me control over it.” In her view, people, especially young people, should educate themselves and share information, all the while, protecting themselves as they engage in sexual activities and be tested often to be able to make informed decisions. Worldwide, the day was marked under the global theme, “Equalize”, and in Rwanda, “Youth, let’s be at the forefront in HIV/Aids response” as a National-specific theme. ALSO READ: World Aids Day: Youth on spot with HIV prevalence, tailored solution needed It meant to remind everyone that HIV is still a real burden to the country, to increase awareness of the virus, and a call to action to the youth and other stakeholders. What Research shows World Aids Day is dedicated to raising awareness of AIDS pandemic spread by HIV infection, and to mourn those who died of the disease. Data from 2021 show that an estimated 38.4 million people still live with HIV across the globe, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. Key populations remain sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and transgender people. Of those living with HIV, 54 percent are women and girls. In Rwanda, data shows that HIV prevalence among women is almost twice as much as that among men, where one in three women struggle with gender based violence, and those subjected to intimate partner violence face up to a 50 percent higher chance of acquiring HIV, hence increasing the risks of HIV infection. UNAIDS’ report shows that the persistent unequal access to rights, services, science, resources and harmful masculinities, discouraging men from seeking care, is holding back the end of AIDS. ALSO READ: Are efforts for HIV prevention waning? A considerable number of people, among those with HIV, were not aware of their status and some pregnant women did not have access to ART medicines to prevent mother-child transmission. And despite recent improvements in treatments, AIDS still claims two million lives each year, children accounting for 15 percent of all AIDS-related deaths. Not a counsel of despair Over the last 15 years, according to the findings from the Rwanda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment, HIV prevalence among the general population of Rwanda has been stabilized and maintained at 3 percent. It is attributed to large community mobilization, promotion of HIV testing, and treatment of services utilization. Hind Hassan, UNAIDS Country Director, in her message said that ‘it was not a counsel of despair.’ “With the current progress in Rwanda’s HIV response and commitment to advance the inclusion agenda, in addition to the exemplary partnership between government, civil society and development partners, the country is ready to take the leap forward to achieve the last mile to end AIDS as a public health threat in 2030 in the country,” she said. Fight far from ending However, the fight is far from ending, noted Noella Bigirimana, deputy director general at Rwanda Biomedical Centre. “It is obvious that young people are still reluctant to acquire HIV related services. There should be no shame in wanting to know your status, and most importantly, being intentional about protecting yourselves against HIV,” she explained. At the vibrant event, different slogans in line with the theme were sung and emphasized by different artists, all meant to remind the public to eliminate discrimination and stigma and to promote equal access of HIV prevention and treatment services. In attendance were high school and university students, young adults from different walks of life, government officials and representatives from Civil and Religious Organizations and the general public.