Over 10,000 households to get free home-based HIV screening

Dr Nsanzimana speaks during the event in Kigali on Wednesday. Diane Mushimiyimana.

The Minister of State for Public and Primary Healthcare, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, has said that 10,800 households will be given free home-based screening for HIV, allowing them to benefit from ‘Treat All’ approach for those who will be found to be positive. It was during the launch of the Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (RPHIA) at Kigali Convention Centre on Wednesday.

The screening, to be held along with that for Hepatitis B and C, is under RPHIA, a national door-to-door survey, will start on October 12.

Funded under the U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the survey is led by the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre and the Ministry of Finance through the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda together with other partners.

Dr Ndimubanzi said that data collected from RPHIA will provide critical insights on the successes and challenges the country faces in confronting the HIV epidemic and selected participants will benefit from free and confidential HIV testing, counselling and treatment referrals.

“This is one of the largest surveys to assess HIV prevalence in our country. In particular, RPHIA will provide information on how many people are  currently infected, how many have recent infections (HIV incidence), and how many HIV positive persons are on HIV viral suppression, to be used for better future planning,” he said.

On the other hand, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Division Manager, HIV/AIDS at RBC, said that staying on treatment is important to keep people healthy and protected from AIDS related deaths.

To-date, with treat all approach, people are introduced to treatment as soon as they are identified as HIV positive.

“This approach has already increased our coverage in terms of patients treated at 82 per cent coverage. Our aim is to reach 100 per cent coverage, to optimise results of decreasing expansion of HIV transmission in the community, especially among the most vulnerable categories,” he said.

Nzanzimana added that several types of drugs exist to treat HIV in Rwanda. For those infected, there is antiretroviral treatment (ART).

For those who are negative and feel they are at risk of contracting HIV, there is pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post -exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

Also, patients enrolled into HIV care and treatment services were offered a flexible way to pick their medication at the nearest health facility three times a year, whereas previously they had to come every month.

Since July 2016, Rwanda implemented the “Treat all HIV positive” approach, becoming one of the first countries in Africa to implement the strategy.

As of June 2016, more than 160,000 patients were on ART. This increase in treatment use occurred by incrementally raising the CD4 threshold as eligibility criteria to start ART.

Previously, only patients in the late stage of the infection had access to ARV’s.

Based on the 2014/15, Rwanda Demographic Health survey (RDHS), three out 100 people in the country have HIV.