10 November 2012

Rwanda: Kigali City Outlines New HIV/Aids Response Plan

Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN
A sex worker (file photo).

The City of Kigali has committed to step up the condom promotion and male circumcision campaign over the next four years in response to the HIV/AIDS threat in the city.

The campaign is contained in the latest city strategy announced in Kigali on Thursday.

According to the Vice mayor in charge of social affairs, Hope Tumukunde , the drive will involve designing mechanisms to increase condom access and community awareness of the dangers of HIV. These include enhancing the provision and quality of food and nutrition in community home-based care for HIV positive individuals.

Tumukunde said the concentration of commercial sex work and key population groups such as gays, intravenous drug users and informal settlements create specific vulnerabilities that must be understood and addressed.

"The City of Kigali and partners recognised these challenges and have been working on strengthening the HIV response in the city since 2010 starting with the review," she said, while opening a workshop on strategic plan or HIV/AIDS response in Kigali.

The national response is co-ordinated by Rwanda Biomedical Centre/ Institute for HIV disease Prevention And Control (RBC/IHDPC),

At district level, the HIV response will be conducted by District Aids Committees (CDLS) which are designed to ensure liaison or communications between the National Aids Council, under the district authorities.

Kigali city has HIV prevalence of 7.3 percent, compared to the 2.3 percent in rural areas.

"At least 9-45 percent of new infections occur among sex workers and their clients and up to 15 percent of predicted new infections are attributed to homosexual transmission, " Dr. Blaise Uhagaze of health and environment unit in Kigali city disclosed.

The new strategy is expected to bring down the current Kigali HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.

Rwanda has introduced a special income generating programme to rehabilitate commercial sex workers.

The initiative is led by the RBC/IHDPC,which facilitates the creation of associations of commercial sex workers willing to abandon the trade in all districts besides mobilising funds.

At the meeting, Jacqueline Mukakannyana and Juliet Kabasinga, both of whom are self confessed commercial sex workers appealed for rehabilitation and support to help them abandon the sex trade.

At least 23.5 million people are said to be living with HIV in East and southern Africa countries including Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Ethiopia, and Sudan where urban HIV prevalence is higher than in rural areas.

Tumukunde explained that recent studies estimate that there are over 30,000 sex workers and over 30,000 clients in the country.

She said that men also sell sex and have female clients.

"Although the number of male sex workers and female clients were quite low, the results suggest that this population should be considered as a key population at risk of HIV infection in Rwanda," she said.

Majority of sex workers and clients were married, she added.

Dr. Walde Hahle, as an international consultant on public health reiterated that gays are at an elevated risk of HIV infection compared to the general population.

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