Since more than 60 per cent of Rwanda’s population is made up of young people, teaching abstinence is critical in the fight against Aids.
HIV/Aids is a pandemic with no known cure yet and with this looming problem and trauma associated with it, abstinence would be a good alternative to consider before resorting to the use of condoms, which should come as a last resort, according to Agnes Binagwaho, head of the National HIV/Aids Control Commission.
“We need to talk about abstinence to delay first sex,” Binagwaho says.
Binagwaho says abstinence has a strong place in our education.
Countrywide, and politically, she says we cannot give the same message as a population that is older. She says young people need to understand they do not need to have sex just to have sex.
The country’s strategy for combating HIV heavily focuses on education, abstinence, fidelity and condom use.
The head of commission stresses that the education and prevention programme is being taught at schools, universities and within communities across the country.
Youth speakFrank Furaha, 21, working at the Civil Aviation Authority, says students and other youth are exposed to Aids risks during their adolescent period.
“There is no need of rushing into risky, unacceptable and unproductive activities,” Furaha says. “You can move with a trusted friend who will not drive you into such acts.”
Furaha adds that the youth should avoid being idle, they can go for church music practices, avoid movies/pornography, and walk away when the situation becomes tempting for them.
He notes abstinence carries no risk to the body or mind. He also says one should not continue having sex simply because they’ve done so before.
Philip Karamuzi, a 25-year-old student at Kigali Independent University (ULK), says condoms are for sexually committed people. They are also used after an understanding between two parties, and a discussion between the two.
The two people must be sure how they are going to use the condom.He also notes that if one wants the condoms for protection, they have to be careful.
“You need not be careless,” says Karamuzi.
Karamuzi says a person using condoms must make sure they are using a fresh condom to avoid ones with no air in the packets.
He says someone using condoms should be devoted and keep them in a wallet, pockets or bags.
“But do not move with them all the time because heat from the body could affect them,” he explains.
“Avoid pricking them with pens and pencils or fingernails.”
HIV testing, new start in life Karamuzi says HIV testing and counselling is vital for everyone.
Before starting a sexual relationship, everyone needs to be tested and go through Aids counselling.
“Testing is very important, even when someone is still a virgin,” he says.
“Both of you have to test even if neither of you has ever had sex. This will help someone to know his or her stand and opt for what is best at the moment.”
The government and different people emphasise the importance of voluntary counselling and testing (VCT). He says when someone tests positive; it does not mean the end of life.
Karamuzi says a person can live for more than 15 years when infected. Even children born with HIV can live and be healthy up to 10 years of age and beyond.
“I decided to take an HIV/Aids test because I wanted to protect my relationship,” he says. “She suspected that I had other partners and was likely to be infected with the disease.
That reason is not enough; someone should take Aids testing as an obligation.”
Many people go for blood tests because they want to marry, but never think it is important to undergo testing to establish their sero status.
Meanwhile, Mama Phanate, a teacher in Martyr’s School, says girls should not be like short trees, where anybody can pick a fruit from anytime.
They should be wise, decide on their own and protect themselves for the better life ahead. Phanate says girls and boys should abstain from sex.
She says sexual relationships should be for adults since they have many consequences, such as Aids and unwanted pregnancies.
“The youth should concentrate on education, which will help them compete in the world. It also enables one to perform well in class as they concentrate on the academic work.” Phanate says
Karamuzi draws an analogy to explain the importance of abstinence.
“If you are in a deep hole, you see a portion of the sky, but when you come out; you realize the sky is really large.
Likewise, young people hurry to have sex not knowing there is much time for it in the future,” he says.
If one decides to have a partner, it should be only one person. Mama Phanate says boys are known for being more unfaithful than girls.
Mama Phanate calls upon girls to respect and treasure their bodies.
She says girls should maintain their dignity until they get married. “Some girls have had sex with older men who could be infected with HIV/Aids,” she says.