World Aids Day: Media urged to boost awareness

Rwanda today joins the rest of the world in marking the World Aids Day, which runs under the national theme; "Role of the Media in early HIV treatment to reduce Aids-related morbidity and mortality."
Youth at a World Aids Day event in Kigali last year. Stakeholders in HIV/Aids fight intend to use this year’s Day to interest the media in boosting awareness efforts. (Timothy Kisambira)
Youth at a World Aids Day event in Kigali last year. Stakeholders in HIV/Aids fight intend to use this year’s Day to interest the media in boosting awareness efforts. (Timothy Kisambira)

Rwanda today joins the rest of the world in marking the World Aids Day, which runs under the national theme; “Role of the Media in early HIV treatment to reduce Aids-related morbidity and mortality.”

Speaking to The New Times yesterday, the head of HIV division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, said they will specifically enlist the media in encouraging people to frequently test for the virus, and for those found positive to start early treatment.

“The Day will be marked in the country on Wednesday during which we will launch a one-year campaign of engaging the media in promoting HIV/Aids awareness,” said Nzanzimana.

He said during the launch, they will stress what role the media can play in fighting the virus.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that on average, one person is infected with HIV every 30 minutes in the country.

The current prevalence of HIV/Aids in the country among adult population aged from 15-19 has remains at 3 per cent in the last five years, estimated at 206,000.

HIV prevalence among children is about 1,000. However, it’s still high among the female sex workers (FSWs), standing at 51 per cent.

By the end of last year, the country had registered 48 per cent success in eliminating new infections and reduced the number of infected people from five to two per hour in the last five years.

According to Nsanzimana, government intends to raise condom use by 13 per cent, decreasing the estimated new infections in children from 1,000 to less than 200 and increase the fraction of male adult circumcision from 13 per cent to 66 per cent by 2018.

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Lamin Manneh, UN Resident Coordinator.

In an Op-Ed published in The New Times in line with the day, UN Resident Coordinator Lamin Manneh welcomed the theme Rwanda chose for the Day this year, saying the media was critical in fighting the disease.

“The use of media has the potential to influence social norms that affect negatively HIV prevention and treatment strategies but also create a platform for dialogue at all levels. An effective way of spreading the knowledge of specific issues in today’s society is through the social media,” the commentary reads in part.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Rwanda, Donald W. Koran, pledged his country’s continued support towards fighting HIV in Rwanda.

“Since 2003, the US Government has committed more than $700 million to support Rwanda’s HIV/Aids response. This year, 80 per cent of Rwanda’s HIV-positive population requiring anti-retroviral treatment (ART) receives this critical lifesaving medication, and through the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), support has been provided for over 82,000 of the 139,000 men, women and children on treatment,” Amb. Koran said in an Op-Ed.

The 2013-2018 National Strategic Plan against HIV/Aids has three main areas of intervention, including prevention of new infections by two-thirds from an estimated 6,000 per year to 2,000, care and treatment to halve the number of HIV-related deaths.

Global stance

HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 39 million lives so far, according to WHO statistics.

In 2013, 1.5 million people died from HIV-related causes globally. There were approximately 35.0 million people living with HIV at the end of 2013 with 2.1 million people becoming newly infected with HIV in 2013 globally.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 24.7 million people living with HIV in 2013. The same sub-region accounts for almost 70 per cent of the global total of new HIV infections.

HIV infection is usually diagnosed through blood tests detecting the presence or absence of HIV antibodies.
There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives.

In 2013, 12.9 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally, of which 11.7 million were receiving ART in low- and middle-income countries. The 11.7 million people on ART represent 36 per cent of the 32.6 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.

Paediatric coverage is still lagging in low- and middle-income countries. In 2013, less than 1 in 4 children living with HIV had access to ART, compared to over 1 in 3 adults.

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