HIV/Aids: Change of infection trend, threat to development

In Rwanda today, unlike in the 1980s, when the first Aids cases were reported in the country with infection high among adults, the reverse is now true. Aids is now more prevalent among the youth.

In Rwanda today, unlike in the 1980s, when the first Aids cases were reported in the country with infection high among adults, the reverse is now true. Aids is now more prevalent among the youth.

“Its true at that time, the virus was common among adults than the youth.

But because of immorality, curiosity and ignorance that is witnessed today, most youth are now engaging into sexual affairs with adults, thus standing a high risk of contracting the scourge,” says Aimable Mwananawe, Chairman of Rwanda NGO forum on HIV/Aids. Mwananawe says Aids is mostly contracted through sexual intercourse.

He adds that, most young youth are moving out with old people (what he identified as Sugar mummy and Sugar daddy), and leaving age mate lovers aside.

Mwananawe also observed that the virus has been able to spread faster, mostly among the youth, because they are sexually active.

Statistics from the National Population and Housing Census (NPHC) August 2002 show that 67 per cent of the total population of 8.4 million people is younger than 25 years. This means 5.6 million of the population is composed of young people.

However, only half of youth between 15 and 24 live in their parental homes, and the other half are heads of households.

HIV prevalence among Rwandan girls aged 15 to 19 is estimated at 4.8 per cent. According to a survey conducted by GTZ in 2005, of 964 Rwandan youth interviewed, 47 per cent believed that it is possible to know someone’s HIV status by simply looking at them while a half the number interviewed did not know how to use a condom.

However, recently, an HIV/Aids test was carried out in Rubavu, in the Western region and 12.8 per cent of females aged 15-38 were tested HIV positive, and their children 13.8 were also tested positive, says Mwananawe.

The country should create income generating activities for the youth who are not employed and the prostitutes so that they can hold the bargaining power when it comes to selling themselves.

“Yes! This can workout, but when a client comes and can’t afford the negotiable terms, he leaves,” says Mwananawe.
In Rwanda, perhaps like elsewhere in other African societies, a big percentage of Rwandans are still ignorant about the transmission of HIV, thus worsening the situation.

This calls for corrective and consistent public lectures about sexual and reproductive health. 

For instance, last month (August), a health programme about the spread of HIV/Aids airing on Rwanda Television basing on a survey conducted in Northern Province indicated that most people were ignorant of how HIV/Aids is spread.

“I can easily identify an HIV positive person from a negative one by using my eyes, says Nyinawumuntu Nadia, an 18 year-old maid in Kabeza cell.

“We all know that people infected with Aids are thin and have boils on their bodies, others have red lips,” she says.

Clever Kamanzi 60 years of age resident of Kabeza says that education has been in the country time immemorial, but different from what is taught today, and that the youth learnt everything concerning life orally from their parents and grand-parents.

“Girls learnt household management skills from their mothers, aunts and grand-mothers, and boys acquired the wisdom of life from their fathers, uncles and grand-fathers.”

The most urgent need is for the Government to put in place strategies of fighting against ignorance among Rwandans, says Twagiramungu Innocent, a pharmacist at Kisementi.

He adds that wrong beliefs and stigma among Rwandans has also increased the spread of HIV infection in the country.

“The government should create awareness among its people, and those infected should not be rejected and denied right to life, because if treated well, they can live longer and contribute to the development of the country,” said Twagiramungu.

The 1994 Rwandan Genocide contributed much to the spread of the scourge.

Thousands of girls and women were raped during the Genocide.

Some of these conceived and the situation worsened when they bore infected children. Now that every one knows that HIV/Aids is among us, there is no need of burying heads in the sand or wishing it away.  Children, too, need to be sensitized on the dangers of this deadly disease.

This need not be in elaborate classroom lessons on reproductive health as a matter of urgency. And since young people enjoy reading or listening to stories, parents and teachers can package information about HIV/Aids in such a way that can easily get the message over to the youth.

As the English say, “Prevention is better than cure,” it is therefore not too late for the Government and none government organisations to put more emphasis on the prevention against HIV/Aids infection, especially in rural areas where people still have poor mentality about the spread of the scourge.

HIV/Aids is a crosscutting issue in the country’s development, because where there is HIV/Aids epidemic, there is no development, thus a hindrance in all developmental sectors.

This is because the country spends a lot in buying antiretroviral drugs.
 
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