Rwanda has an HIV prevalence rate of 3.1 percent among adults between the ages 15 to 49. It has remained relatively stable with an overall decline since the late 1990s, due to improved HIV awareness carried out by the government and health partners.
The National Strategic Plan on HIV/ AIDS (NSP) describes how challenging the scourge affects the country’s economic and social development. With an estimated 3 percent of the adult population infected with the virus, statistics show that Rwanda’s population is less affected compared to other countries in the region.
The targets set by NSP are aimed at creating access to treatment, care and HIV/AIDS prevention. This is closely aligned with Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy of 2008 to 2012 (EDPRS) as well as the Health Sector Strategic Plan.
According to the above strategies, HIV/ AIDS in the general population should have greatly reduced by 2012; the morbidity and mortality among people living with HIV reduced and people infected with HIV/ AIDS should have the same opportunities as the general population.
In an interview with The New Times, Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Head of HIV Division-(IHDPC) Rwanda Bio-Medical Center, explains how the country has been able to deal with HIV/AIDS in the recent years.
“The current situation in Rwanda is that 93 percent of people in need of Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) receive it. This is so because all HIV/AIDS services are offered at no cost,” Nsanzimana discloses.
He adds that the decentralization of medical facilities and the training of health personnel to offer the services, has championed the progress.
“With 435 health centers countrywide, 357 of them offer HIV/AIDS services. The minimum number of health personnel offering the services is two per health center,” he explains.
John (Real name withheld) a member of ‘Ubumwe Cyeya’ Cooperative, explains how he gets ARVs from his health center.
“I’m given medicine monthly. I take a tablet during the day and take two others in the evening,” John says.
He further said that when the medicine is finished he goes back to the health centre and gets more at no cost.
“The only problem with the medicine is that I have to feed well, if I don’t do so, I feel nauseated and dizzy. With my little income, it’s difficult to eat the required quantity of food that goes well with the ARV medication,” John said.
‘Ubumwe Cyeya’ Cooperative is made up of 20 members of Lukomo Sector, in Gicumbi District, in the Northern Province. All the members are positively living with HIV/AIDS.
The World AIDS Day in Rwanda, was marked under the theme, “Youth, let’s join efforts in protecting ourselves and others against HIV for a brighter future.”
The youth were called upon to protect their lives from being infected.
Currently, the youth in Rwanda constitute the highest percentage of the population with 41.9 percent of the population under the age of 15.
According to the Demographic Health System carried out in 2009, 51 percent of young women between the ages of 15 to 24 years, had a comprehensive knowledge of HIV. They could correctly identify the two major ways of preventing HIV transmission. They were aware that the major preventive way included condom use and limiting sexual involvement to one faithful and uninfected partner. They also rejected the two most common local misconceptions about HIV transmission and understood that a healthy-looking person can have the virus.
Innocent Ninsiima, the Regional Youth Caucus Representative for Rwanda in the Commonwealth, said that focusing on the youth in the fight against AIDS is the right direction.
“Although it’s everyone’s role to fight and curb HIV/AIDS prevalence, involving the youth paves the way for a brighter future,” Ninsiima said.
He adds that while celebrating the World AIDS Day, we acknowledge the tremendous steps taken to fight its prevalence.
“Even with the great strides taken to fight HIV/AIDS, we still need to put in more effort if we are to have an HIV/AIDS free Rwanda,” Ninsiima explained.
The HIV/AIDS campaign that will go on for the next three months involves different activities across the country.
Cassien Havugimana, Acting Managing Director and Programs Manager of Health Development Initiative (HDI), directly works with the youth regarding issues on reproductive health. He explains the importance of youth involvement in AIDS campaigns.
“Its during such times that the local people especially the youth, who are now the focus of the country, should get the opportunity to get more clarification about HIV/AIDS,” Havugimana said.
He said that the activities that will be carried out country-wide will involve sensitization, testing for HIV/AIDS and showing the steps that Rwanda has taken to control the AIDS pandemic.