HUYE - Students at the country’s oldest and largest public institution of higher learning, the National University of Rwanda (NUR) use 80,000 condoms every academic year (10 months) as a preventive measure against HIV/Aids, an official from the University League for Aids Control has said.
In an interview with The New Times, Consolee Mukamwezi, in charge of voluntary counselling and testing at the centre, said that results from a Post Graduate study she conducted last year indicate that 62 percent of the students use condoms.
“The results were impressive, but currently, the centre is conducting another study on the impact of free distribution of condoms to students, we expect the results soon,” Mukamwezi said.
Condoms at the university are distributed free of charge. They are placed at strategic points in students’ washrooms where they can be accessed easily.
With a student population of over 10,000, the HIV prevalence rate at the university stands at 0.1 percent, but according to Mukamwezi, this figure does not show the whole picture of the HIV/Aids situation at the university.
“The number of students who come for voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) at the centre is still very low. Many students opt to go for such services outside the campus where they expect to have more privacy,” she added.
From 1 percent in 2001, the number of students who come for VCT services has grown over the years standing at 25 percent this year. This trend, according to Mukamwezi, is attributed to the vigorous campaign by the centre to encourage students to go for HIV testing.
“We are now using sporting activities to encourage students to come for testing, this has paid off in that we receive at least 100 students every other day during the campaign period,” said.
Mukamwezi however noted that students found to be HIV-positive had been reluctant to join the association of people living with HIV/Aids at the university, an association mainly composed of university staff.
“Students who test positive do not return for various reasons; some complete school and go to their home districts while others just do not want to join the association. We are looking at how we can establish an association of students living with HIV/Aids through which they can be helped to cope with their status,” said Mukamwezi.
The University league for Aids control coordinates HIV/Aids control activities in the Central African Universities of Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.