The New Times (Kigali)

30 November 2013

Rwanda in New Rwf600 Billion Push to Fight HIV/Aids

The Government plans to spend Rwf673 billion in fighting HIV/Aids. Rwanda Biomedical Centre Director-General Mark Herant said the money will go into implementing activities that have been planned under the country's new five-year National Strategic Plan on HIV/Aids to be unveiled tomorrow.

Over five years from 2013 to 2018, the new plan will focus on reducing new HIV infections by 2/3 and Aids related death by half while HIV related stigma and discrimination will be eradicated by 2018.

Dr Herant described the activities to be undertaken as an investment that will have high returns as the country envisages an environment without HIV/Aids in the coming years.

"We need to spend that money today so that we do not have to pay it in the future," he said, adding that dealing with an HIV epidemic is not cheap but not dealing with it is more expensive.

Dr Herant said a large fraction of the funds will come from the Global Fund and the US government President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) as well as contributions from the Government of Rwanda.

"We are confident about getting the money. We have a strategic plan that I think will convince all our stakeholders that the money will be spent wisely," Dr Herant said.

Under the plan, high-impact interventions will be undertaken, including condom promotion campaigns, anti-retroviral treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, communications for behaviour change, and targeted approaches for key populations and marginalised groups such as sex workers and the youth.

Tomorrow, Rwanda will join the rest of the world to mark the World Aids Day which is commemorated on December 1 every year.

This year's theme will be: "The role of leaders in the HIV response in Rwanda", a theme Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the head of the HIV division at the Rwanda Bio Medical Centre described as strategic.

"Having a country without HIV/AIDS requires extraordinary effort. That is why we want to involve leaders," Dr Nsanzimana said.

Rwanda, which spent slightly over one billion USD to fight HIV/Aids in the last three years, has made significant progress.

The latest information from the Rwanda Biomedical Centre indicated that the rate of new infections in the country has declined by 50 per cent, Aids related deaths have declined by 83 per cent in the last decade and more than 90 per cent of people living with HIV/Aids access anti-retroviral treatment (ART) .

The country is on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 6 (MDG 6) and virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV by 2015, according to a new report released by Unicef yesterday.

Efforts of all countries across the globe through the United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) are focused on working to achieve a vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths.

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