11 August, 2015 00:37

HIV prevalence still at 3% in Rwanda

KIGALI, Rwanda - Rwanda’s HIV-prevalence level has remained constant at 3% during the last 15 years due to successful treatment and prevention programmes. This is according to the Rwanda AIDS Indicator and HIV Incidence Survey (RAIHIS) conducted in 2013/2014.

“The same study shows that 0.7 is the incidence (this being the first incidence done in Rwanda), when considering the population following the old year and during the last study,” Dr. Muhayimpundu Ribakare, Head of department that deals with HIV virus at the Rwanda Biomedical Center said.

This survey was conducted with the aim of understanding the dynamics of the epidemic in Rwanda. It has provided up-to-date estimates on the prevalence of HIV and syphilis infection nationally and the incidence of HIV during a one year period.

Dr. Ribakare was presenting the key recommendations from the research findings of the two-day’s scientific workshop ‘Dissemination of key studies results and new viral hepatitis national guideline and Global HIV scientific updates’,held in Kigali last week.

“The incidence of HIV in Rwanda shows that 3 out of 1000 people get infected every year,” Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Head of HIV, STI and Blood Borne Infections Division, RBC said.

According to the survey, a sample of 14,222 respondents participated, 52.2% being women. 13,056 were tracked in the HIV incidence cohort, 48.3% being female.

From the overall 3% HIV prevalence, this seems to be higher in women standing at 3.5% than in men where it is at 2.4% and it is higher in urban areas standing at 5.6% than in rural area where it is at 2.6%.

The HIV prevalence increased in age in both sexes according to the survey, standing higher among individuals who are divorced /separated or widowed (11.1%).

The survey states that about half of the participants (53.6% of women, 52.6% of men) had comprehensive HIV knowledge. 

Condom use showed room for improvement with only 25% of those who had casual sex consistently using condoms and only 33.1% among those who tested HIV positive reporting consistent condom use during casual sex the survey showed.

“The same study shows that even though these results show that we are doing well, there is still area of improvement,” Muhayimpundu said.

“We have seen improvements in all the indicators related to behavior and also the prevalence of female sex workers,” Nsanzimana said.

42% of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) are engaged in transactional sex and almost 50% of FSW only consistently use condom, with 7% of children of FSW having HIV which calls for improvement in our national programme, he said.

Rwanda has reduced new infection for the past 10 years by 50% with an intention to reduce it even more by 78.

“We again saw that science has shown that combination of strategies is the best option to address issues for key population as well as the general population in terms of prevention,” Muhayimpundu said.

Experts on HIV/AIDS from different partner institutions in the country and beyond therefore recommended the self-testing and test-and- treat method which they believe will reduce the spread of the virus.

This new method ensures that people start treatment as soon as they test positive which will help prevent new infections.

“Government of Rwanda will continue prioritising evidence-based policy formulation, adding that researchers should continue playing a critical role in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Rwanda’s Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho said.

Rwanda wants to be an economy that grows based on knowledge and based on the fact that each Rwandan knows where they want to go.

“Now that the world is going for test and treat it is even better and government of Rwanda supports this 100% and we believe we will make it,” the health minister said.

Other measures are used to combat HIV spread is the promotion of male circumcision. This has increased from 13 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in Rwanda due to mobilisation and availing materials at different health centres and hospitals.

By Agnes Bateta

East African Business Week

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