Rwanda: Umurage Communications Urge Unwavering Vigilance Against HIV/Aids

28 October 2020

Umurage Communications for Development (UmC) says that the public should remain vigilant and prevent any possible spread of HIV/AIDS.

Umurage Communication for Development (UmC) is a Rwandan NGO based in Kigali, which strives to promote positive behaviour change around social, economic and health issues, by the use of effective communication strategies.

The call is in line with the NGO's communications campaign in partnership with UNAIDS-Rwanda, the Ministry of Health through the Rwanda Biomedical centre (RBC), Kigali city and a network of national NGOs operating under the Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion (RNGOF on HIV/AIDS & HP), to ensure social and behaviour change.

Ran under the theme "Supporting the role of beneficiaries in the fight against HIV/AIDS", the campaign is held through radio drama/talk shows and success stories video production among other channels.

The campaign focuses on accelerating efforts to prevent new HIV infections, eliminating stigma and discrimination, and strengthening strategic partnerships targeting key and priority populations in the City of Kigali.

The three-month project began in July this year and will go through the end of this month.

According to Jean Bosco Kwizerwa, Executive Director of UmC, HIV/AIDS is still around, therefore everyone should make sure that they adhere to preventive measures so as to sustain what Rwanda has achieved in the fight against the virus.

He said: "During these tragic times of the Covid-19 pandemic, we should also be reminded that HIV/AIDS is another pressing issue that shouldn't be treated with negligence. Everyone has a role to play in the fight of ensuring that we achieve the 90-90-90 target set by UNAIDS."

Kwizera also noted that the public, especially youth, should make sure they shun any behaviours that they may spur unprotected sex.

"The fact that the pandemic negatively affected people's standards of living, with some being idle without things that make them busy, poses a threat that people, especially youths, may indulge themselves in behaviours that result in unprotected sex. This may increase the risks of contracting HIV/AIDS," he said.

A recent survey by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) revealed that

83.8% of adults living with HIV were aware of their status, and of these,

97.5% were on Antiretroviral Treatment, and 90.1% had Viral Load

Suppression, a good performance vis-à-vis UNAIDS's target.

A timely and productive campaign

Andrew Gasozi Ntwali, Community Support Advisor at UNAIDS, reiterated that the campaign is expected to help the country further achieve the 90-90- 90 target.

He said: "Rwanda has done well in the last two targets, but there is still a gap to fill in the number of people who know their HIV status, which is the entry point of improving our status on the other two targets.

We are optimistic that this campaign will increase the number of people who test for HIV and help them to take medications if found positive, because the country has availed such services."

Patricia Mukangarambe, the Director of Health and Environment Unit in the City of Kigali, also noted that the campaign will help Rwanda, especially the City of Kigali, to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence.

"As it is the case in many other countries, our city has more HIV/AIDS prevalence than other parts of the country. Therefore, there is a need to continually encourage citizens to test, prevent and take medications for HIV/AIDS when tested positive, which is the objective of that campaign," she said.

She added: "This also in line with the Fast-Track AIDS from Paris Declaration of 90-90-90 targets, as stipulated in our strategic plan 2018- 2023."

The HIV prevalence in Rwanda has been stable since 2005 and remains at 3 per cent among adults age 15-49 (4 per cent among women and 2 per cent among men).

The HIV prevalence is highest in the City of Kigali (6.3 per cent) and is relatively uniform throughout the other provinces (2 to 3 per cent).

Beneficiaries hail the initiative

Mariam Nyirabagande who is a sex worker for the past 10 years says that the campaign has reminded her that HIV/AIDS has not gone anywhere, therefore the need to remain vigilant.

She said: "The campaign reminded us that HIV/AIDS is still around, and therefore we have to remain cautious. Though I'm a sex worker, I cannot accept to do sex without a condom because I'm not sure about the HIV status of my partner, thanks to the campaign."

Niyonzima who is cross border truck driver also applauds the campaign by UmC, saying that it helped him to remain cautious of HIV/AIDS and observe preventive measures.

"Due to the condition we work in, we end up spending days and nights far from our homes, and therefore at times have sex with prostitutes. The campaign taught us that we have to observe preventive measures such as the use of condoms, and we also teach our colleagues these lessons," he said.

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