KARONGI — The police and army personnel are among the people most vulnerable to HIV infection due to the nature of their work.
It is in this light that the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA-Rwanda) embarked on a campaign to try and minimise the spread of AIDS in the police force and army through its Uniformed Personnel and Prisoners’ project (UPP).
Initiated in late 2007, in the Districts of Karongi and Nyamasheke, the UPP sensitises the army, police, Local Defence personnel and prisoners including their spouses on the dangers of HIV.
According to the project manager, Geoffrey Ngiruwonsanga, they found the campaign necessary because, uniformed personnel are exposed to risky sexual behaviour due to the nature of their work.
Ngiruwonsanga says because soldiers, police and prisoners reside in confined places, stress, boredom and alcohol use may drive them into casual sexual activity.
In addition, the fact that most of the uniformed personnel live separately from their families, interaction between them and surrounding communities could also fuel rapid transmission of HIV.
The uniformed personnel and prisoners and their spouses, in Karongi and Nyamasheke, who have attended Aids awareness seminars, say they have increased knowledge and understanding of HIV/ Aids transmission and prevention mechanisms.
The training includes the underlying causes of AIDS in a context of mobility, power dominance, and gender inequality, says Ngiruwonsanga.
The project manager adds that through their project, at least 60% of wives of prisoners and 70% of wives of Local Defence personnel can explain the various ways of HIV transmission and prevention methods.
According to UPP field coordinators, beneficiaries of the training can now sit and discuss issues related to HIV and sexual reproductive rights with their partners.
The coordinators noted that the training has also reduced issues of stigma among beneficiaries, describing it as a milestone.
Most of the uniformed personnel in the two districts have shown positive attitudes towards working with their HIV positive colleagues, the coordinators say.
Eric Munzaniye, an inmate who has attended the training, says UPP has provided a lot of support in helping them understand HIV/Aids.
“After UPP support, I have found ways and means to better deal with our vulnerability to HIV/Aids,” he says.