21 November 2012

Rwanda: Communities Essential to Reduce Child HIV Infections

The fight against new HIV infections among children should aim at community ownership to achieve zero new infections. This was said by Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the head of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infectious Diseases unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC).

He made the declaration at the 8th annual national pediatric conference on children infected and affected HIV and Aids which was officially opened on Wednesday in Kigali.

According to Nsanzimana, efforts made over the years have considerably reduced new HIV infections among children, yet the target is to achieve zero new infections. New HIV infections among children have now dropped to 1.9% from around 10% in 2004. Till now, Rwanda's health sector registers at least 1,500 new infections among children every year.

Dr Nsanzimana said that while they used to urge health service providers and top health officials to take the lead in the fight, it is imperative for communities to get involved in the fight. "We will see how community will bring in new force to get to zero new infection," he said.

The three-day conference is taking place under theme "Strengthening community ownership for equitable effective and sustainable response to HIV among children in Rwanda."

Countrywide, HIV prevalence stands at 3% of the whole population. According to statistics, people infected with HIV every year have reduced to 10,000 from around 21,000 people twelve years ago. "These are new people who are infected with HIV even though communication is there; we have different channels of telling people that HIV exists, yet 10,000 people are infected every year. This is unacceptable," Nsanzimana said.

He noted that there has been huge increase of health facilities providing services on HIV counseling and treatment since 2003. "We have a very big different between 2003 and 2011 in terms of accessing free counseling services, and this also applies to treatment," he said, adding that more than 90% of health facilities provide antiretroviral services for free since last year.

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