The New Times (Kigali)

23 November 2012

Rwanda: HIV Infection Among Children Drops

Photo: Sarah-Eve Hammond/MSF
Receiving antiretroviral treatment.

Despite the significant decline in the levels of HIV/AIDS prevalence, the Ministry of Health says there are 1,500 new HIV infections among children every year in Rwanda, and 10,000 general infections.

The Head of HIV/ AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (BMC), Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, disclosed this during a Paediatric Conference on children affected and infected with HIV that began on Wednesday in Kigali.

Dr Nsanzimana further noted that the overall HIV prevalence rate in Rwanda now stands at three per cent with the rate among females and males pegged 3.6 per cent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

He said various interventions were being implemented and others intensified to curb new HIV infections among children as the focus had hitherto been on adults.

The three-day conference has attracted 400 policymakers as well as local and international partners, and children's representatives to explore means to advance the fight against HIV among children with a focus on prevention of mother to child transmission, HIV prevention among youth and adolescents, Paediatric HIV care, treatment and protection of orphans and vulnerable children.

Nsanzimana noted that there had been immense improvement in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS and antiretroviral treatment (ART's) coverage.

Over 90 percent of persons infected with HIV/AIDS can now access ARTs that are now available in almost all health facilities across the country.

According to the 2011 data, 2,664 children under the age of 15 tested HIV positive. 87 percent of them were enlisted for HIV/AIDS care and treatment, while 13 percent did not have access to care and treatment services.

While pointing out that community involvement was still low, Dr Nsanzimana urged the public to get more involved with the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Jean d'Arc Gakuba, the Vice President of the Senate, also reiterated the need for further community engagement.

"Local leaders, starting from the grassroots, should ensure that pregnant women go for antenatal check up, deliver at health facilities and know their HIV status. The resolutions from the paediatric conference should also be on the performance targets of every leader," she urged.

She observed that involving the community was key to ensuring an HIV free Rwanda and generation.

In its annual report on the state of the global pandemic released this week, UNAIDS announced that Rwanda had managed to halve its rate of new HIV infections since 2001.

Particular progress had been made in bringing down the number of children newly infected with HIV.

Last year, 330,000 children worldwide were infected with the virus that causes AIDS, down from 370,000 in 2010, and 43 per cent fewer than in 2003.

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