TODAY, on 1st December 2012, Rwandans proudly join the rest of the world in celebrating the World AIDS Day. This day has been observed by the International Community to order to maintain the global, country and community attention on the HIV/AIDS pandemic and highlight the progress made in the fight against it.
It is also a day to raise awareness about HIV prevention and an opportunity to recommit to end the spread of the virus, end the untimely deaths and suffering it is causing and end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV.
Rwanda has also made outstanding progress in the area of treatment, currently 9 out 10 people who are HIV positive and in need of treatment are receiving it. People who are HIV positive and on treatment have less of a risk of spreading the virus to theSince 2010 the global theme has been the vision of the "three zeros"; Zero new infections, Zero AIDS related deaths and Zero stigma and discrimination. In Rwanda this year's theme is "The Role of the Intore in Stopping New HIV Infections within the Rwandan Community" As the Intore is part of a uniquely Rwandan tradition, acting as role-models in the community they can play a critical role in the reduction of new HIV infections. The theme chosen in Rwanda reflects the importance of community-based HIV prevention efforts. This is indeed a critical part to reach our vision both of zero new infection and of zero discrimination.
Rwanda's pioneering leadership, commitment and ownership of the HIV response, integrating HIV into health and development efforts, combined with meaningful involvement of civil society organisations and a strong partnership with donors and the One UN has led to remarkable progress. Rwanda has seen a reduction by more than half in new infections, prevention of mother-to-child transmission services are available in over 90 per cent of health facilities and HIV testing among women has increased by almost a third since 2005.
Rwanda has also made outstanding progress in the area of treatment, currently 9 out 10 people who are HIV positive and in need of treatment are receiving it. People who are HIV positive and on treatment have less of a risk of spreading the virus to their partner and the coverage of treatment in Rwanda has caused fewer people to die from AIDS.
The country should be proud to be celebrating its achievements in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The country stands out as an example of what committed leadership, cooperation and good governance can achieve.
For the road ahead we must focus on increasing comprehensive knowledge of HIV and AIDS amongst adolescents and youth and tackle the stigma and discrimination felt by key population groups, particularly sex workers, leading them to shy away from HIV/AIDS services available to them. HIV prevention messages must be tailored to reach groups with high risk sexual practices.
Being a role model in the fight against HIV/ AIDS also comes with the responsibility to ensure that the progress made so far is not lost. Challenges in the area of HIV prevention still remain in Rwanda as well as in the provision of long term predictable financing to ensure sustainability of the national AIDS response and the gains made thus far.
In the same way the Intore plays an important role for a strong HIV response at the community level, Rwanda's role is critical at both national and regional levels for implementing the recently adopted African Union Roadmap on Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity that calls for sustainable national solutions to the HIV response. The roadmap specifically calls African nations to focus collectively on diversified financing, increased access to quality assured medicines and enhanced leadership and good governance for sustainability.
In the current global economic downturn with its impact on development partners ability to fund the AIDS response it is important that countries, especially on the African continent, look for ways of setting up domestic financing mechanisms that lead to an increase in national resource allocation to ensure the sustainability of HIV prevention, treatment and care services that bring life and hope to millions of Rwandans.
With three years to go to reach the 2015 global AIDS targets set in the UN Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, the United Nations family in Rwanda is committed to use this momentum of achievement and to support through the Delivering as One mechanism, the national AIDS response to scale up key interventions towards the fulfilment of all the targets. Rwanda is on good course to achieve these goals and the Millennium Development Goal 6 leading to an AIDS free generation.
Nonetheless, with the HIV/AIDS incidence currently standing at 3%, there is still need to step up the pace and scope of the response across all key areas in order for that goal to be attained. The One UN family in Rwanda has no doubts that the Government of Rwanda and all the other stakeholders will sustain the dynamism it has demonstrated in this and the other development spheres. The One UN Family in Rwanda therefore recommits itself to continue standing shoulder to shoulder with the Government and people of Rwanda in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic as the global community celebrates the World AIDS Day.
The writer is the One UN Resident Coordinator, Rwanda