Profile :Teaching Rwanda’s Adolescents about Reproductive health

Jean Marie Niyitegeka is Youth HIV Program Coordinator in the Ministry of Youth but was seconded there by PSI Rwanda (Population Service International).

Jean Marie Niyitegeka is Youth HIV Program Coordinator in the Ministry of Youth but was seconded there by PSI Rwanda (Population Service International).

He deals in drafting policies regarding HIV and Reproductive health issues amongst the youth and then guarantees that they are fully implemented.

Born on October 8th, 1977 Rukoma Sector of Kamonyi District Southern Province, he attended Murehe Primary School and Ecole de Sciences Byimana  Secondary School for both his O level and A’ level.

“I graduated from the National University of Rwanda with a Bachelors Degree in Clinical Psychology but first worked with Bible Society of Rwanda under an HIV program,” Niyitegeka narrates.

“In collaboration with the National Youth Council we make sure the policies elaborated are entirely implemented and this is done through youth-friendly centers. There are several of them countrywide for instance, Kabuga youth friendly center, Dushishoze Musaze, Dushishoze Huye and many others,” he explains

The youth-friendly center offer different services such as Voluntary Counseling and Testing services, Pre-marriage counseling, reproductive health services and sensitization events that have been helpful in tackling youth issues.

“For example, the ‘Sinigulisha campaign’ literally meaning I’m not a sexual worker, the sensitization events are greatly adjured by the youth-friendly centers all over the country in conjunction with other youth organizations,” Niyitegeka stresses

“As a ministry, we have to find ways of solving issues that by the youth by setting up polices thus to be implemented.

In 2005 a study was made by the Demographic Healthy Survey (DHS) showing that Girls who were infected with HIV were five times more than the boys. While Behavior Sexual survey (BSS) proved that 12.1% of girls have the first sexual encounter with men ten-years older than them hence raising the risk of contracting HIV AIDS,” he solemnly disclosed.

During a conference in 2009, at National University of Rwanda in Huye, it was discovered that there were 15 cases of unwanted pregnancies excluding abortion cases which had been concealed hence showing that all youth face the same reproductive health problems.

“Both the educated and uneducated youth are faced with the same risky sexual behavior and that is why there are cases of unwanted pregnancies and HIV. However, the domestic workers (helpers at home) are sexually abused by their bosses and they acquire HIV and unwanted pregnancies because they can’t defend themselves and are, at most, very naïve,” Niyitegeka laments

The youth-friendly centers have helped in over coming stigma in addressing sexual issues and testing for HIV.
“Youth were scared to line up with their parents to test for HIV but with the setting up of youth-friendly centers where they are free to express them selves and test for HIV since sensitization programs through games and films are provide at these centers, they are highly motivated,” he explains.

When asked about the challenges met while implementing these policies, Niyitegeka said: “We still have limited youth-friendly centers; at least we aim at having one in each sector and thy condom distribution is still relatively low since most youth especially the uneducated ones don’t access them. There are inadequate skilled personnel at the youth centers.”

Several organizations have partnered with the Ministry of youth regarding Adolescence and reproductive health issues and they include UNICEF, PSI, UNFPA, Joint youth program and Trac plus Rwanda.

“These organizations have helped in mobile voluntary counseling and testing services hence offer a sustainable follow up with HIV-positive youth by referring them to health centers,” Niyitegeka clarifies

Besides his efforts to make sure that the youth lead a harmonious life, Niyitegeka is newly wed to Theodette Niyonsenga.

His favorites
  - French fries
Colour:  - Blue
Sport:   - Football
Team:   - Rayon Sport (Locally), 
Real Madrid (international)
Music:   - Slows
Artist:   - Celine Dion
Quote:   - ‘Respect yourself always’

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