Some of the youth at the World AIDS Day event last year. (File photos)

Some of the youth at the World AIDS Day event last year. (File photos)

The national event will be held at Camp Kigali Stadium in Nyarugenge District.

This year, Rwanda has chosen to focus on HIV/AIDS prevention in children and adolescents under the theme, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent, treat HIV among our children and adolescents.”

Speaking to The New Times, Dr Muhayimpundu Ribakare, the acting head of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), said although Rwanda has managed to contain HIV prevalence among the general population aged 15-49 years by keeping it at a stable three per cent for the last 10 years, the challenge has been increasing treatment targets of HIV infected children.

Figures from RBC estimates that only 44.2 per cent of all HIV-infected children are on treatment. On the other hand, 80 per cent of adults in need of antiretroviral treatment are receiving the life-saving drugs.

Antiretroviral treatment  is free of charge in Rwanda.

“Adolescent HIV treatment programmes have been a challenge in past years. That is the reason we want to focus on the need of community mobilisation and involvement in HIV prevention and treatment among children and adolescents,” Muhayimpundu said.

A statement from RBC shows that a package for adolescents has been integrated into the existing package of HIV treatment services and a closer follow up has been constituted to scale up programmes for treatment of children and adolescents infected with HIV.

According to RBC, the reason children and adolescents are unable to receive treatment is because they are not getting tested for HIV.

“The low number of children and adolescents receiving HIV treatment is mainly caused by fear of stigmatisation both on the infected individual and/or the parents who don’t want to be judged by their communities,” Muhayimpundu said.

“We need to work together to fight stigma and in so doing we will improve on the number of children who get treatment and subsequently kick HIV/AIDs out of Rwanda.”

Prevalence rate

In Rwanda, HIV prevalence among the population aged 15-49 years has remained stable at 3 per cent for the last 10 years, according to RBC.

The survey also indicated that prevalence is higher among women, at 3.7 per cent, than men at 2.2 per cent.

In Kigali, and other urban areas, HIV prevalence is at 7.1 per cent and this is caused by the high number of sex workers as compared to rural areas, where prevalence stands at 2.3 per cent.

According to 2014 United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Gap report figures, Rwanda is not doing poorly in the treatment levels on a global scale.

Dr DluDlu Sibongile, UNAIDS country director, said the general treatment of HIV infected children and adolescents who are on treatment globally stands between 15 to 55 per cent.

“If we are to go by the global scale, Rwanda is somewhere in the middle and that is an indicator that the government it determined to achieve zero HIV infections.

“However, more efforts are needed, globally, to reach the 90 per cent target of treatment of HIV infected children and adolescents,” Sibongile said during a media briefing at the launch of WAD in Kigali, last week.

ATHAN TASHOBYA, The New Times

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