10 August 2017

Rwanda: Medics Mull New Methods for HIV Treatment, Prevention

Medical experts with the Ministry of Health are making a major headway toward introducing changes in the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the country.

The medics are set to present these changes in a 3-day workshop on Global HIV Scientific Updates in Kigali this week.

The meeting, that has attracted researchers and medics from the country and other parts of the world, is meant to share evidence-based knowledge in HIV prevention and management to inform the 2018 national HIV policy and guidelines.

The policy is being developed to improve the quality of HIV management.

Speaking to the media, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the head of Division HIV and other Infections Diseases at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said they will start from the preventive part, by introducing a new self-testing system.

This, he said, will be rolled out as early as December this year.

According to Nsanzimana, with the self-test system, people will be given devices with which they will be able to take test from anywhere for HIV. He said this will be as simple as carrying out a self-testing pregnancy kit.

"It will help many people to know about their HIV status, especially those who normally shy away from voluntary testing conducted at health centres," he said.

The system will not use blood alone for testing but also other body fluids like saliva.

Self-testing has been tried in three countries in southern Africa. MoH has already made steps toward, the system and the workshop is just to confirm and to decide to scale it up in Rwanda.

On the side of treatment, the medics are also looking to include new drugs into the guidelines as well as removing others basing on factors like side effects, potency or resistance to HIV/AIDS.

"This workshop is the one to decide which drugs are going to be included and which ones are going to be taken out," Nsanzimana said.

He noted that there are new, better drugs coming in. Without naming them, he said the new drugs will be "safer and better." He added that they will be convenient as a patient will only need to take one pill a day.

He added that they are also looking at exploring how Rwanda can be among the first countries to get the injectable HIV drugs that are envisaged in the future,

"We are also looking to connect with other researchers in terms of injectable drugs which have been discussed recently at an international AIDs conference in Paris two weeks ago. This is the future of treatment, from pills to injections, and this is probably coming soon to Rwanda, so we will discuss that as well," he said.

For injectables, a patient may need to have only one injection in a period of a month or even three months.

Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the State Minister in charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care, said that the meeting will help them look at better ways of treating people and making sure that all the people are covered as far as anti-retroviral treatment is concerned.

Rwanda has managed to stabilise HIV prevalence at 3 per cent in the general population (15-49 years) over the last decade, and reduced transmission rate of HIV from mother to child to less than 2 per cent over the last 3 years.

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