Health minister calls for more efforts to fight HIV/AIDS

Some of the community health workers who attended the 15 years’ celebration of PEPFAR. / James Peter Nkurunziza

Health minister Dr Diane Gashumba on Thursday evening rallied residents of Kimisagara Sector in Nyarugenge District to fight HIV/AIDS, saying that much as its prevalence has reduced, the virus remains a threat.

She said this during celebrations for the 15th anniversary of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AID Relief (PEPFAR), which was launched by former US President George W. Bush in 2003.

“I urge all of you to always go for voluntary HIV testing and start medication the moment you find out that you are HIV positive, and follow the instructions of caregivers,” she said.

Gashumba also called upon communities to desist from stigmatising those with the virus, saying that accepting those living with HIV is therapeutic and will help them live longer.

She thanked PEPFAR for their work in the country for the past 15 years where they have provided drugs and other services to HIV positive people in Rwanda.

In his speech, the US Ambassador to Rwanda, Peter H Vrooman, thanked everyone that came to celebrate the anniversary and pledged continued commitment in the fight against the virus.

Amb. Peter Vrooman, US envoy to Rwanda, speaks at the event on Thursday. / James Peter Nkurunziza

The envoy also noted that since PEPFAR was founded 15 years ago, 16 million lives have been touched worldwide while over a billion dollars have been invested in Rwanda alone since 2004.

In a speech he fully delivered in Kinyarwanda, the envoy cited areas in which PEPFAR is involved in Rwanda, including provision of ARVs to over 100,000 people, voluntary male circumcision, and supporting over 100,000 vulnerable children and their care givers.

The HIV prevalence rate in Rwanda has been maintained at 3% at the national level over the years.