Emeline Murekatete, a 35 years old mother had her first child when she was 16. With pressure to raise her child and with no proper source of income, she resorted to prostitution.
Three years later, she got pregnant for the second baby from a man she met during her sex work related activities.
“I didn’t use a condom. Men could tell me that they would pay much money for unprotected sex and I agreed,” she said.
After having the third child, she received some training on the use of condoms and Sexually Transmitted diseases from an organisation called Ihorere Munyarwanda.
“I’ve seen my colleagues suffer from various sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Fortunately, when I did a HIV test and I found I was still negative, I decided to use condom consistently,” she said.
Murekatete’s first born is now 18 years old, the second 15 while the last born is 13.
“When a man calls me to meet him somewhere, I take condoms with me. When he demands for unprotected sex, I turn back. No amount of money is worthy my life. I’m very grateful to the government which provides us with free condoms but they must be availed in many places,” she narrates.
Murekatete is among thousands of Rwandans under key population who are more vulnerable to contract HIV/AIDS.
Key population in fighting against HIV/AIDS are those on the high risk of HIV infections including sex workers, gays and lesbians and people who work far away from their homes for a long time. They are the main target in the latest campaign to fight HIV/AIDs
Statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre shows that 50 per cent of all sex workers in the country are infected with HIV.
Dr Brendah Asiimwe Kateera, the Country Director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation Rwanda said people understand the importance of condoms, but the challenge is they don’t use them consistently.
Many people, she said, still fear to buy condoms in open spaces because of the stigma and discrimination that they face.
“AHF with the partnership of the government set up condom kiosks in order to avail them all the hours of the day in hot spots,” he said, adding that “more than 40 per cent of the people who use condoms from kiosks are sex workers.”
Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Division Manager, HIV/AIDS at RBC, said that every year the government of Rwanda spends $200 million to all activities related to fighting against HIV and AIDS, including distributing condoms, ARVS, testing, campaigns and human resources among others.
“Condoms are distributed through various channels including health centres, community health workers, peer educators, from boutiques, and another new way of kiosks which are set in hot spots,” he said.
This new way delivered good results, as more than 1 million of condoms have been distributes from there just in one year and half, he said.
Every year, more than 20 million condoms are distributes in Rwanda, he said.