First Lady Jeannette Kagame has reaffirmed Rwanda’s commitment to the fight HIV/Aids, saying the country is using a holistic approach through a combination of laws and policies, and pro-women and girls programmes.
Mrs Kagame was speaking at a forum on Women and HIV/Aids in Washington D.C, US, convened on Tuesday by amfAR - the Foundation for Aids research.
Under the theme, “Fast-Tracking the Global Response to HIV/Aids,” the conference brought together members of the US congress, diplomats, policymakers, researchers, and people living with HIV/Aids.
Mrs Kagame noted that following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there were hundreds of thousands of women brutally raped and infected with HIV/Aids, numerous orphans and widows prompted the government to embark on restoring dignity to people’s lives.
“Assessing the magnitude of our loss compelled us to build a new and different Rwanda. We understood this daunting task of repairing our ruined nation. This entailed the restoration of the dignity of all Rwandans. Our leadership readied its people to be self reliant, to be purpose driven, to revive the dreams and hopes that were lost to this tragedy,” the First Lady said.
Among the initiatives that the government embarked on, Mrs Kagame said, were scaling up healthcare services such as Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services, establishment of a one stop centre in response to gender violence and increasing girls’ enrollment in school.
“Rwanda is working on a sustainable financing plan in the face of significant diminished funding, for HIV/Aids. We are increasing domestic funding for the health sector by gradually taking over the support provided by development partners,” she said.
Sixteen per cent of the Financial Year 2013/14 National Budget was allocated to the health sector.
She paid tribute to the stakeholders who have had a role in the progress achieved such as the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief Fund (Pepfar), the Global Fund, the UN family, scientists, activists, Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/Aids (Oafla) and the people living with HIV/Aids.
However, despite the strides made in combating the ailment, the First Lady called on players to sustain efforts and investments in treatment, care and prevention for the sake of the young generation.
“Despite encouraging advances we see on the HIV front, we need to be ever conscious of the threat it poses to humankind. The most troubling part about HIV is that we have not mastered the virus: neither its mutations nor its mobility. Another unsettling truth is that it takes years, sometimes decades, to see and feel the ravaging effects of HIV. This can deaden our senses or lull us into a dangerous comfort zone,” Mrs Kagame said.
She urged the players to resist the urge to become complacent as the virus is still alive in 35 million adults globally, half of whom are women.
The First Lady has been active in the fight against the epidemic through the Imbuto Foundation and her service through the boards of various international organisations, including the Friends of the Global Fund Africa, the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, and the Global Coalition of Women against HIV and Aids.