Rwanda: Diabetes Patients to Get Free Self-Testing Devices

18 January 2020

Type 1 Diabetes patients in the country will soon have free self-testing devices, for four years, thanks to a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Abbot, an American pharmaceutical company.

Abbott announced Thursday the donation of glucose metres and up to 12 million testing strips that will be given free of charge to patients in Rwanda, a move that is aimed at advancing disease management for those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the country for the next four years.

For people with diabetes, self-testing to find out the levels of blood sugar (blood glucose) is an important tool in managing their treatment plan and preventing diabetes complications.

Glucose metres and test strips are important tools to help people manage their diabetes.

According to the STEPS Survey 2014, diabetes prevalence in Rwanda is 3 per cent and 2,000 among the patients have type 1 diabetes.

Under the partnership, a diabetes patient will be able to access four glucose testing strips every day and hence be able to carry out self-testing for as many times for four years.

The donation is in partnership with Team Type 1 Foundation, a non-profit organisation pursuing a global mission of education, empowerment and equal access to medicine for everyone affected by diabetes.

Speaking about the development, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the Minister of State in Charge of Primary Health Care in Rwanda said that the fight against diabetes and other NCDs is a high priority for the country and he promised to continue working with partners to mitigate its impact.

"The Government of Rwanda responded to the global call to tackle the increased burden of diabetes by ensuring improved access and quality care is delivered at all levels of the health system including primary health facilities close to the population," he said.

According to the minister, diabetes can be diagnosed even at the health centre level in Rwanda.

To align with Rwanda's vision to protect Rwanda's population from morbidity and mortality related to NCDs including diabetes, the country put different measures to fight diabetes, these include; Community check-up and sensitization for early detection, decentralization and integration of diabetes care to health centre level and health system strengthening through capacity building and development of normative tools.

Other measures include increasing accessibility and affordability of diabetes commodities, medicine and lab tests, and inclusion of diabetes care into medical insurance scheme among others.

Hubert Biramahirwe an 18 old with type 1 diabetes highlighted the importance of the glucose metres in a patient's life,

"Without the device, you cannot know how you are before or after taking, in other words, you are treating a disease that you are not seeing well and it is challenging to treat something that you are not seeing well. But when you are treating something that you are seeing well, you can control it," he said.

Bernard Brisolier, the Business Unit Director for Abbott's Diabetes Care Business in Africa, said the development will empower thousands of people living with diabetes in Rwanda.

"We are thrilled to bring this initiative to life and help support the Rwandan diabetes community, by working together with the Ministry of Health and Team Type 1 Foundation, we will empower thousands of people living with diabetes in Rwanda to monitor their glucose levels and manage their diabetes, which will help them lead healthier and fuller lives."

For Team Type 1 Founder and President Phil Southerland, the move is "a dream come true." Southerland wrote to Abbott asking for their support for Rwanda and it turned out to be a positive response.

From early 2019, Abbott has also partnered with the Ministry of Health on a pilot program including the launch of eight second-generation health posts in Bugesera District.

The initiative aims at providing primary healthcare services within a 30-minute walk for all Rwandan homes. Health post workers will test and treat people, including pregnant women and new-born children for multiple infectious and non-communicable diseases.

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