AIDS Health Care Foundation, a local non governmental organisation, in conjunction with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), on Wednesday, called on the youth to embrace condom use in order to prevent HIV/Aids infection.
The call was made during a peaceful march to raise condom awareness as part of activities to mark International Condom Day which falls on February 13, every year.
The march, from Nyarutarama to Amahoro National Stadium, was attended by scores of youth wearing red T-shirts and black trousers. Free condoms were distributed ahead of Valentine's Day which was celebrated yesterday.
The youth were also advised to seek voluntary HIV testing to know their status.
According to Annicet Nzabonimpa, a family planning and HIV integration coordinator in Ministry of Health, statistics indicate that last year, 15 million condoms were used.
"This number has increased by two million each year since we started sensitisation," he said.
Dr Hortius Munyampundu, a programme manager of AIDS Health Care Foundation, observed that young people normally forget using condoms, especially when they are excited.
"Youth are Rwanda's future. They must not ignore their life and should always do their best to protect themselves against HIV and other problems that come with unprotected sexual intercourse," Munyampundu said.
During the march, culture and religious beliefs were noted as still hampering condom use.
Eric Mugesera, a 28 year-old security guard, says that he does not agree with the use of condoms because he is a Christian and that is against his religious beliefs.
"A condom will perhaps protect your body but not your soul," he said.
Amina Nirere, 22, a student at Mount Kenya University told The New Times that it was difficult for a girl to buy condoms because it's still unheard of in Rwandan culture.
"If young girls ask for condoms in a public place they mistake them for sex workers," she said, adding that more sensitisation has to be carried out.
Nzabonimpa agreed that there are some constraints against the use of condoms but the Ministry of Health is initiating several efforts to overcome such challenges.
"We collaborate with the media, local leaders and health counsellors in order to increase condom use awareness," he said, adding that they try to avail condoms everywhere.
This is made possible through the Medical Procurement and Distribution Division (MPDD), which distributes them to district pharmacies and hospitals.
"We also reach Rwandans through social marketing organisations like Society for Family Health, which sell them to the retailers on a low price as well as private business agencies like supermarkets and private pharmacies," he added.
According to Nzabonimpa, all these suppliers follow the Ministry of Health guidelines as well as the Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS).
Statistics indicate that the HIV prevalence rate in Rwanda stands at about three per cent.
Twenty five low- and middle-income countries, including Rwanda, have managed to halve their rate of new HIV infections since 2001, according to latest UNAIDS report on the state of the global pandemic.