AIDS mission to Rwanda to discuss coordination, next steps in AIDS response
13 February 2006
This week, leaders from Luxemburg, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) are visiting Rwanda for a two-day, high-level mission to gain a joint perspective on the progress of the national AIDS response and the ongoing challenges it faces.
Over a quarter of a million people are estimated to be living with HIV in Rwanda, according to UNAIDS 2003 figures.
Over the last years – and against a backdrop of extremely difficult circumstances - the country’s AIDS response is showing encouraging signs of progress.
Political commitment to tackling AIDS is high, with the personal involvement of the President and the First Lady. The expansion of the country’s AIDS programme points to a welcome trend. Services to prevent mother-to-child transmission are available at 50% of all health centres in the country, sites offering voluntary counselling and testing have increased, and according to national estimates the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy rose from 8700 in 2004 to more than 19000 by end 2005, a more than 50% increase. Over the past years, trends among pregnant women indicate signs of a decline in HIV prevalence in some areas.
But the country faces ongoing challenges to more rapid progress. Women are particularly hard hit by HIV in Rwanda - recent national data suggests that women aged 15 - 24 years old have five times the HIV prevalence rate than men of the same age group.
Children also need greater attention. Rwanda has one of the highest proportions of orphans in the world – 1.25 million, and in 2003 it was estimated that Rwanda had 22,000 children under 15 living with HIV.
This week, leaders from Luxemburg, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) are visiting Rwanda for a high-level mission to gain a joint perspective on the progress of the national AIDS response and the ongoing challenges it faces.
Mr Jean-Louis Schiltz, Luxemburg Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Action; Sir Suma Chakrabarti, Permanent Secretary, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID); Ms. Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF and Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS are meeting with representatives of the government including President of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame and First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, civil society, UN and donor agencies to gain a collective understanding of the current challenges and opportunities for the AIDS response in Rwanda. Central to the mission is the exploration of ways to improve partner harmonization at all levels.
As part of the visit, the delegation is also visiting some key community-based programmes that provide care and support to people living with HIV, child headed households as well as prevention services, including HIV testing and counselling.
“Rwanda’s AIDS response is showing some significant positive trends which underline the commitment in the country to seriously tackle AIDS. This joint mission is a key opportunity for AIDS leaders and key players in the Rwandan response to revise the current situation and make concrete recommendations for future action,” said UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Dirk Van Hove.