The New Times (Kigali)

29 January 2013

Rwanda: African First Ladies Mark 10 Years of Fighting HIV/Aids

The Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/Aids (OAFLA) on Monday ended their four-month long 10-year anniversary of the fight against the virus.

The event, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was graced by key OAFLA partners, including official from the UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS). It was marked by a luncheon in which the First Ladies reviewed their achievements and shortcomings.

The First Ladies shared experiences around the implementation of OAFLA activities in their respective countries and the need to broaden their mandate.

Based on their experience with HIV/Aids initiatives, the First Ladies agreed that the pandemic can be used as an entry point to better serve the current needs of vulnerable populace. Other key diseases mentioned that are of growing concern in Africa are obesity, cancer and diabetes.

The 10-year anniversary activities started on October 25 last year at the OAFLA Secretariat in Namibia.

Rwanda's First Lady Jeanette Kagame's efforts are visible on a national level. She has championed the fight against HIV/Aids even before OAFLA was formed through projects such as the Imbuto Foundation,

which gained prominence over its concentrated effort to better the lives of hundreds of women, who had lost hope after the devastating effects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

"Mrs Kagame has spearheaded the formation of programmes such as elimination of Mother to Child Transmission, and was at the forefront of catering for the needs of widows living with HIV/Aids," a statement from Imbuto Foundation says.

Imbuto Foundation has contributed to medical insurance, establishing youth centres and the 'Treat Every Child as Your Own Campaign'- adapted to Rwanda's context as Malayika Murinzi.

This is a continuation of a campaign established by OAFLA members continent wide. It mainly focus on raising awareness among adults on children's protection, especially against HIV/Aids.

The statement said Mrs Kagame continues to work hand-in-hand with government as a national priority to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Speaking at the Ethiopia luncheon, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe commended Rwanda's efforts in fighting HIV/Aids.

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