Hope and living positively has been established among victims of the HIV-Aids within certain communities in Eastern Province.
This has been made possible through interventions by Barakabaho Foundation an NGO which is financed by Christian aid International.
Barakabaho is a Kinyarwanda word that can be translated literary as, “Let them continue to live”. One of its core values is addressing the interrelationship between HIV/AIDS and poverty.
HIV/Aids orphans are the main concern of the foundation. Other orphans however, are also catered for to an extent.
“We mainly help HIV orphans by giving them hope for the future. There is no doubt that the pandemic is related to poverty. The orphans need to be given life skills to avoid a cycle of the disease, Bishop Birindabagabo Alex, of Gahini Anglican Church and the brain behind the Foundation said.
The issue of HIV/AIDS is exacerbated by people’s standard of living. The disease cripples economies to the individual level. By the time the parents die, they leave nothing for their children. It is therefore, imperative that the orphans be given life skills to start life a fresh.
“Apart from helping orphans to adopt and adapt behavioural changes, we help them to afford the minimum required nutrition. We view it as a human rights issue”, Pastor Nsimiyimana Thadeo, of Byumba Anglican Church Dioceses said.
Barakabaho Foundation’s values on the pandemic have been echoed by several scholars on the international scene.
“Poverty is the foundation of many of our problems. It is no coincidence that Africa has the highest poverty rates in the world and accounts for the largest share of the world’s AIDS cases. So there is a very close inter-relationship between poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Poverty contributes,” Dr. Samba, Africa regional director, World Health Organization said.
Interestingly, the Foundation developed a different approach to control the spread of the disease known as –SAVE, breaking away from the much discussed ABC.
“The Christians leaders never felt comfortable with the common approach; A-abstain, B- be faithful or use C-use of condom otherwise collectively known as ABC. SAVE was thus adopted,” Mama Karire, one of the founders’ long time serving official said.
SAVE approach is a multidimensional model. It involves behavioural change and cultural flexibility, to accommodate the new demands to fight the disease.
It is further interesting to note that the new approach, calls for people to circumcise as a scientifically proven way of reducing chances of infection.
Typical successful stories are hereunder narrated by two cases; one by Namahirre Josian, 22 and the Mulinda Glatien family.
I am (Namahirre Josian) so happy today. I had undergone so many problems to the extent that I never expected to recover. God, through Barakabaho Foundation answered my cries, when not even my father or mother was near me.
I have managed to educate my sisters and brothers, and look forward to going to school soon myself.
I have a big modern banana plantation that does not offer us food only, but also money to buy other things, and save for the future.
We also own a hybrid cow and are constructing a big house for ourselves. All these achievements came when we had lost hope for life.
After the death of our parents, I remained the leader of the home by virtue of my age. I am the eldest. Orphans like me should not lose hope-time may bring joy to you at some time.
But what I should quickly advice vulnerable orphans like me, is to desist from any behaviours that may push them into catching the HIV/AIDS.
The family of Mulinda Glatien and Kankuyo Clementine is also all smiles, after a long time miserable life. “We (the couple) are so much different after the sensitization and help we got from the Foundation. We never knew anything to do with family planning.
Today we are spacing our children, a thing that is helping us to feed them well. Of course, the cow we got increased our happiness, ”the couple told this reporter.
They added that consequently they are able to get milk from the cow they received which has enabled them to manure their fields, hence increasing our overall domestic production.
“The HIV/AIDS pandemic will find it hard to penetrate our family. We have decided to be faithful to each other, ”the couple added confidently.
The efforts of the Foundation like any other are not immune from challenges. HIV risk perception in relation to peer pressure and drug abuse behaviour among adolescents has been the Foundation’s great challenges.
Despite the efforts on ground, adolescents continue to practice unsafe sex.
“I gave birth when I was about 24 years old. The father of this baby disappeared to Uganda and I have never seen him again. I live a lone in this hut you see with my kid. I do not even have money to feed it,” Alphonsina Mutesi, 16, said.
Teenage pregnancy shows that they do not practice safe sex, yet it is the leading cause of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection globally.
Young people under the age of 25 are doomed if such trend is not reversed. HIV/ AIDS will continue to spread rapidly, like wild fire, in the Province and the country at large.
The issue of HIV/AIDS in Rwanda and elsewhere in the world cannot be handled in isolation. The interrelationship is inevitable.
Barakabaho Foundation is therefore, getting it right by handling the two together.
Alleviating poverty among the orphans, and sensitizing them against morals that exacerbate the HIV/AIDS pandemic, should be given its due concern.