Civil Society and partners lay plans, strategies to control AIDS epidemic in Rwanda
Today Rwanda Civil Society and partners including EANNASO, Members of Rwanda NGO Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health promotion, UNAIDS, and various stakeholders laid using evidence to inform long term strategic planning towards ending AIDS epidemic as public health threat by the year 2030.

Rwanda is commended for being on good track towards ending AIDS epidemic. HIV prevalence in general population (15 – 49 years old) has been kept at 3% since the last decade. However HIV is estimated at 6% in the City of Kigali. Stakeholders agree that a particular focus is needed in the areas with higher HIV prevalence. Strategic planning requires using evidence this will help control AIDS epidemic. The prevalence is also reported to be higher in certain groups of populations.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of health Dr Jean Pierre Nyemazi commended development partners and civil society organizations for their contribution and support provided to the country in the fight against AIDS epidemic and health sector in general.

The Ministry of Health values the involvement of all stakeholders in this journey of AIDS response. Civil society organizations have been playing the forefront role we will continue engaging them in all process of planning and implementation of activities. Evidence informed planning is essential if we are to control AIDS epidemic.

Though a lot has been achieved we still have long journey to take and we are all invited to contribute to sustain gains and accelerate efforts to reduce new HIV infections and reduce AIDS related deaths through quality care said Dr Nyemazi.

The UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Sibongile Dludlu commended the leadership of Rwanda in this journey towards controlling AIDS epidemic. The United Nations, through this year’s 2016 High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS, has committed to engage all actors in the fight against AIDS epidemic. In addition, the world has committed to end AIDS epidemic as public health threat by 2030. To do so, every one’s contribution is needed said Dr Sibongile.

The UNAIDS strategic 2016 – 2021 has made it clear that a particular strength of civil society lies in its diversity, often representing and providing services to different marginalized communities. Efforts need to be made to ensure that young people including from key populations can participate meaningfully in decision-making platforms and accountability mechanisms. I can see this meeting as an example that Rwanda considers involvement of civil society in the response highlighted Dr Sibongile.

The Chairperson of Rwanda NGO Forum mentioned that the Midterm review of the National Strategic Plan for response to AIDS is at the vital stage of developing an operational plan for the next 2 remaining years and Civil society are prepared to be well positioned to participate is all stages of operational plan development and implementations stage she said.

The representative of EANNASO at the opening session of the meeting emphasized on the role of civil society organizations and commended government of Rwanda for giving space to civil society in various decision making forums. “ I hope and pray that the two day deliberations will be able to identify and map out key civil society interventions and activities; and with the voice and support of both government and development partners represented here and not here today, Rwanda Civil Society will once more arise to play a vibrant role in the National AIDS response as planners, technical specialists, key populations, people living with and/ or affected by HIV. The East Africa National Network of AIDS Services Organization values networking and plans to continue working with civil society organizations in Rwanda she said.

Talking the global prevention gaps, Mr Ruturwa Dieudonne from UNAIDS in his presentation emphasized on the need to use the evidence to be able to close gaps as well as in prevention and treatment. The 2016 UNAIDS Prevention gap report revealed that globally only 38% of people living with HIV are virally suppressed. Condoms available in sub-Saharan Africa cover less than half of the need.

Two-thirds of young people do not have correct and comprehensive knowledge of HIV. Condom use is much too low across all population groups at higher risk of infection. Talking about key populations the presenter mentioned sex workers, people who inject drugs, transgender people, prisoners and gay men and other men who have sex with men to be at higher risk of HIV infection compared to general population.

Recent studies he said suggest that people who inject drugs are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV than adults in the general population for example sex workers are 10 times more likely to acquire HIV and gay men and other men who have sex with men are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV and transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV and prisoners are five times more likely to be living with HIV than adults in the general population. http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/2016-prevention-gap-report_en.pdf

Long term strategic planning and location of financial resources should be driven by evidence if we are to control AIDS epidemic said Mr Ruturwa.

In the case of Rwanda, Mr Innocent Kamali said that Female sex workers have the highest prevalence 41.4% nationwide and 51.2% in the City of Kigali. This means that about 1 out of 2 female sex workers are likely to be living with HIV. The evidence further shows that nearly half (41.4%) of female sex workers are between the ages of 15-24 years old.

The U.S. PEPFAR Country Coordinator in Rwanda Mrs. Tracy Burns, in her presentation at this workshop, mentioned that PEPFAR values engagement of civil society in planning and implementation.

Originally posted on irwanda24
On 13th/Oct/2016