KIGALI - Harmonization of policies in the fight against HIV/AIDS will lead to reduced infections in East Africa, activists have observed.
The remarks were made yesterday at the opening of a three-day East African Community (EAC), workshop on mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS prevention.
“It is important that we improve the effectiveness of interventions through the harmonization of member states’ HIV/AIDS protocols, policies, plans, strategies and legislation,” said Dr Stanley Sonoiya, the EAC Principal Health Officer.
He particularly called for a holistic approach in ensuring the well-being of armed forces in the region, saying that no country can be secure with an army that is infected with the scourge.
“It is losing investment to train an army that is HIV infected. It’s both a national and regional security threat,” Sonoiya noted.
In his remarks, Defence Minister Gen. Marcel Gatsinzi called for concerted efforts, saying that armed forces can easily contract the disease given the nature of their work, which often involves travelling long distances away from home on high mobility missions.
Gatsinzi, said that although there have been tough measures to fight against the scourge in place in the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), figures still show that there is still a lot to be done.
“Despite the immense challenges involved in the fight against HIV/Aids in our armed forces, we can succeed,” Minister Gatsinzi said.
The EAC Deputy Secretary General (productive sectors), Jean Claude Nsengiyumva, urged EAC’s Sectoral Council on Defence to include HIV/AIDS in the ongoing negotiations on the development of a regional protocol on cooperation in defence, peace and security matters.
Meanwhile, Sonoiya told delegates yesterday that that the EAC envisages establishing an HIV and Aids unit to coordinate interventions and actions at regional level.
The three-day workshop will discuss among other issues; how to explore approaches that enhance multi-sectoral coordination on health and security sectors, and exploring ways to strengthen the links between researchers, practitioners and leading policy makers to galvanize an intensified HIV/AIDS prevention response.
Participants will also conceptualize and develop a regional armed Forces HIV/AIDS prevention strategy.