The New Times (Kigali)

13 May 2011

Rwanda: First Lady Launches Anti-HIV Campaign

Bugesera — The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, yesterday officiated at the launch of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) campaign in Ruhuha Sector, Bugesera District.

The campaign is in line with UNAIDS call for the elimination of mother to child transmission by 2015

The First Lady also unveiled a new antiretroviral treatment which was scientifically proven to be more effective. The major innovation in the new treatment regime is that triple therapy continues during the entire breastfeeding period.

"When you look back, when this programme began with trials at Kicukiro Health Centre in 2000, it has been a long and difficult journey," Mrs. Kagame said.

She added that it was encouraging to see that 82 percent of health centres in the country offer PMTCT services.

"Mothers in urban areas and those in rural areas are now getting the same services," she said.

Mrs. Kagame said that if such programmes were not in place, 20 percent of the children born annually would be infected by their mothers at birth, while 5-20 percent would be infected during breast feeding.

The First Lady also commended men who accompany their wives to antenatal visits. She urged them to maintain the spirit as it was the only way to ensure good health among families.

According to the president of Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) Charles Lyons, PMTCT is one of the most successful HIV prevention strategies to date.

"By making effective PMTCT services available to the women who need them, we are able to protect the health of mothers and dramatically reduce the number of new infections in children, saving lives and a lifelong need for anti-retroviral therapy," said Lyon.

In his speech, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Elhadj Sy, commended Mrs Kagame and the government for their efforts in eliminating mother-to-child transmission.

"We have made the call for the elimination of the vertical transmission by 2015, but without the will of the government and the people, the call would be nothing," he said.

"We do care, but we cannot pretend that we do more than you do," Sy added, commending the first lady for her efforts.

The UN official expressed confidence that the elimination would be successful in Rwanda.

In an interview with The New Times, Justine Muragijimana, a resident of Ruhuha Sector, said that the PMTCT is useful because it prevents a child from suffering the consequences of the parents' actions.

"Children will be assured of good health. He or she may become orphaned, but will lead a normal life without suffering from a disease contracted from the mother," said Muragijimana.

The national campaign, coordinated by the National Aids Control Commission (CNLS) will continue until December.

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