“It’s my life. It’s my right to protect myself; I use a condom.”
Rwanda will today join the rest of the world to celebrate World AIDS day. The universal theme for this year is, “Universal Access and Human Rights.”
World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education.
The World AIDS Day theme for 2009 is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights’. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.4 million people living with HIV, including 2.1 million children. During 2008 some 2.7 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS.1 Around half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they are 25 and are killed by AIDS before they are 35.2 years old.
However, the vast majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in lower- and middle-income countries. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world; Rwanda is not an exception.
According to the National AIDS Control Commission (CNLS) Rwanda has adopted the national theme of, “increasing the use and access of condoms for all, breaking the barriers around condoms and encouraging sexual responsible behavior.”
With Rwanda’s prevalence rate of 3 percent, a campaign against HIV/AIDS and World AIDS Day celebration are marked at Nyamirambo Stadium in Kigali. Here a campaign will be launched and will begin today, December 1st and end on February 28th 2010.
The slogan “It’s my life. It’s my right to protect myself; I use a condom,” will be chanted at the grounds as a reminder for all Rwandans to live responsibly.
The youth, drivers, truck drivers, commercial sex workers and men in uniform are the focus of this year’s campaign. The general population will be reached through these groups of people as they echo the slogan in all sectors of the society, at the institutional level, in field offices and at the community level.
With a general objective of breaking the silence around the condoms and substantially increase their use for dual protection, the Rwandan community will be sensitized on the necessity and importance of the use of condom for dual protection.
Also more political decision makers and development partners will be mobilized to reinforce sensitization initiatives for the use of condoms for dual protection.
According to the Millenium Development Goals (MDG’s) and the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS, 2005), Rwanda targets to reduce the total fertility rate from 6.1 to 4.5 children per woman, and reduce HIV incidence among 15-24 years old men and women from 1 to 0.5 percent by 2012.
In order to achieve this target, the Government has invested more efforts in family planning and reduction of unintended pregnancies especially among the youth and incidences for STIs (Sexually Transmited Infections) and especially HIV/AIDS.
Previous campaigns effort, have shown that less attention has been paid to prevention in terms of the use of condoms and therefore, the 2009 campaign will focus on that with more emphasis on promoting condom as dual protection.
So far, condoms have been the only means for both protection against both unintended pregnancies and STIs. In that respect, condoms should be one of the most common means of prevention.
Unfortunately, it is not the case in Rwanda. The use of condom is not widespread. According to the Interim Demographic and Health Survey (IDHS, 2007/2008), the utilization rate is of 1.9 percent of male condoms for family planning purposes and 27 percent for all other modern contraceptive methods.
Though the 2007/2008 DHS survey shows that condoms are the third most popular family planning method in Rwanda, they are far less utilized than injections at 15.2 percent and pills at 6.4 percent.
Many barriers and taboos have surrounded condom use in Rwanda. However, although the political environment has always acknowledged the necessity of and supported the use of condom, the national campaigns have been quiet on the topic.
This year, CNLS and its partners decided to break the silence by addressing the barriers and challenges around the condom use.
This will also be an opportunity for promoting the use of female condoms, especially for the empowerment of women to have the capacity to defend their rights to life.
Based on data for the past condom consumption trends, female condoms have been much less consumed than male condoms due to different factors including lack of information about their existence and accessibility.
In this regard, much effort needs to be invested in increasing knowledge about female condoms, their availability and accessibility.
The red ribbon
The red ribbon is an international symbol of AIDS awareness that is worn by people all year round and particularly around World AIDS Day to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment.
The red ribbon started as a “grass roots” effort, meaning that there is no one official AIDS ribbon manufacturer, and many people make their own. ThisIt’s easily done - just use some ordinary red ribbon and a safety pin!
If you want to take your awareness raising a step further then try finding a local event to take part in. Around the world there are hundreds of activities taking place to mark World AIDS Day, including candlelight vigils, art shows, marches and religious services.
If you can’t find anything in your area then why not organise an event yourself?
An estimated 33.4 million people worldwide are infected with the AIDS virus, according to a statement issued by the World Health Organization and the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).