The high burden of HIV/AIDs in the cities compared to rural areas could be addressed if global efforts to end the epidemic use interventions that encourage more involvement of city authorities, stakeholders and the public.
Officials from City of Kigali, health experts from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Ministry of Health and UNAIDs made the suggestion yesterday, during a meeting to fast track the agenda towards ending Urban AIDs epidemic in Rwanda.
The Mayor of City of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba said people most vulnerable to HIV are those living in the urban areas and once they are infected economic progress slows down.
“Unfortunately in the case of HIV, the productive population is weakened yet cities are known as the engines for growth, it is therefore, difficult to advance without this population,” Ndayisaba said.
Currently, HIV prevalence rate in Rwanda stands at 3 per cent.
The Mayor also advised those involved in risky sexual behaviour to stop and those who have contracted the virus to seek early treatment.
“The best way to avoid contracting HIV is to abstain from sexual activities. Nothing good comes from activities such as prostitution. Even when one may get money, the business is risky. Proper business alternatives to generate income are there for people to do,” he added.
The fast track cities initiative
According to the fast track cities initiative, by 2020, 90 per cent of people living with HIV should know their status, 90 per cent who know their HIV positive status should be on treatment whereas 90 per cent of those on treatment should have their viral load suppressed.
As it stands today, figures from the Rwanda Biomedical Centre indicate a significant progress of 86 per cent being diagnosed, 82 per cent on antiretroviral therapy and 76 per cent have obtained viral load suppression.
Dr Sibongile Dludlu, the UNAIDS Country Director called for more commitment from leaders to attain both national and global targets.
Rwanda like any other country has a unique opportunity to end HIV/AIDs despite the challenges, according Dludlu .
“The AIDs epidemic requires focusing on programmes that can have impact. Barriers should be removed and gaps in key areas have to be identified,” Dludlu said.
She added that with the increase in urbanisation, the response towards HIV must increase to achieve national goals.
“Success in Kigali will influence success in other areas and local governments are best placed to lead the struggle,” she said.
Dr Jean Baptiste Mazarati, the deputy director general at RBC commended efforts of global partners but called for more collaboration from the public.
“We are grateful for all partners ...we have to tackle HIV through collaboration to track the infection to the villages or household level,” Mazarati said.
The first case of HIV/AIDs was established in 1983 in Kigali but with the presence of various strategies which include 553 sites for counseling and testing and 513 sites for prevention of Mother to Child Transmission center’s, HIV can be history by 2030 according to experts.
Dr Eugene Rugira, from RBC who made a presentation on AIDS epidemic in Kigali suggested that since HIV has been decreasing over the past ten years, good strategies within Kigali will help reduce it further.
From 2004 to 2014, HIV reduced by 50 per cent and deaths reduced by 78 per cent, according to Rugira.
“If we decrease it in Kigali, we can reduce it all over the country and go beyond the global targets.”