Rwanda

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman praises Rwanda’s efforts for children in fight against HIV/AIDS

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© UNICEF Rwanda/2006/Gangale
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (R) and UNAIDS Executive Director Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot (C) visit the Central Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 14 February 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has just completed an official visit to Rwanda as part of a joint mission examining the country’s response to HIV/AIDS.

Ms. Veneman applauded Rwanda’s work to address the issue of HIV/AIDS and children. “I particularly want to commend the leadership of the President and the First Lady,” she said. “We have worked closely with the First Lady on her initiative, ‘Treat Every Child As Your Own’.

“For too long, children have been the missing face of the AIDS pandemic. We must work to provide protection, care and treatment for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS,” she said. “It’s critical as we move forward to highlight the child as the missing face of the pandemic.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Rwanda/2006/Gangale
Justine Nimugire (L), an orphan, meets with (L to R) Sir Suma Chakrabarti, Secretary of DFID; Jean-Louis Schiltz, Minister for Development and Humanitarian Action for Luxembourg; UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman; and UNAIDS’ Dr. Peter Piot.

The mission’s findings

With Ms. Veneman on the two-day joint mission were Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS; Sir Suma Chakrabarti, Permanent Secretary for the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID); and Mr. Jean-Louis Schiltz, Minister for Development and Humanitarian Action for Luxembourg.

According to a recent census, more than 160,000 Rwandan children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS. An estimated 250,000 people ages 15-49 are living with HIV in Rwanda.

The 2004 UNAIDS Global Report says that 22,000 children aged 15 and under are living with the virus. Women are especially hard hit by the epidemic. The HIV prevalence rate among women aged 15-24 years is believed to be several times higher than the rate among men.

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© UNICEF Rwanda/2006/Gangale
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (L) and UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot (R) help Rwandan First Lady Jeanette Kagame cut the ribbon to inaugurate a new wing of the Kacyiru heath centre in Kigali, Rwanda.

But progress has been made. Since September 2005, more than half of Rwanda’s health facilities have been offering specialized treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. With leadership from the Government and strong support from Rwanda’s First Lady, more health centres are being opened.

Access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) is improving. At present about half of those in Rwanda who need treatment for HIV/AIDS are receiving it – among the highest coverage rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country’s HIV prevalence rate has now stabilized. The mission found that Rwanda’s approach and results are a model for other countries to emulate.

Sustaining progress

At the same time, the mission emphasized that Rwanda is at a key juncture in its response to HIV/AIDS. Preventing new infections remains the most sustainable means of curbing the epidemic.

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot addressed this issue, saying, “Our assessment is that Rwanda is moving to the next phase in the fight against AIDS. The first phase after breaking the silence around AIDS has been to set up the programmes, to roll them out.

“But now the key is to make sure that those people who are benefiting from HIV treatment will benefit from that in the next twenty, thirty, forty years,” he said.

Eric Mullerbeck contributed to this story.


 

 

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14 February 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports on UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s official visit to Rwanda.

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