By Elias Hakizimana
Rwanda NGOs Furum on HIV/AIDS met with the Rwandan government Officials from the Ministry of Health, Representatives of HIV, TB and Malaria Dvision/RBC, Representatives from Bilateral and Multilateral Institutions, UN Agencies and Representatives from International Organizations on Friday to discuss about what can be done to fast track the three diseases namely HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria which are still the burdens for the country.
Nooliet Kabanyana, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs forum on HIV/AIDS and Health promotion explained that the meeting was to call for effective engagement of the civil society in fighting against the three diseases.
“You know civil society organizations have been contributing much to the national response of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, so, the rationale of organizing this session today with the theme ‘CSOs national advocacy meeting to sustain gains and fast track the responses of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria’ was that we just want to advocate in fighting against the three diseases, we wanted to advocate more for the engagement of the civil society in the fighting against the three diseases as we mentioned,” Kabanyana noted.
Rwanda NGOs forum on HIV/AIDS and Health promotion is a network of 127 national NGOs working in health sector and involving in the response of HIV, TB, Malaria and Non Communicable Diseases. The NGO members intervene in the areas of prevention, care and treatment, social protection (Nutrition, Impact mitigation), Human rights and research.
Kabanyana said that interveners target different groups which are People living with HIV, key population including female sex workers (FSWs) whose HIV prevalence is at 45.8 percent and MSM or Men who have Sex with Men at 4 percent, young girls and young women both in-schools and out of schools, People who use drugs, refugees, young children in prisons, community Health Care workers, and prisoners.
She explained that the NGO members of the forum also cater for people with disabilities who are HIV positive by giving advice on how to prevent from non-communicable diseases.
One of the recommendations participants have emphasized on is lack of funding towards achieving resources useful to combat the three diseases.
Kabanyana said there is a need for engagement among civil society members to find solutions to funding in this move by attracting funders.
“As the civil society, we have to think how to do things better comparing to how they have been done, we have to market ourselves on the market where funding is, by showing them how we are ready to do things in a better way comparing to how they have been done. Civil Society Organizations should think more of innovations,” She said.
Kabanyana noted that civil society have to be engaged in all the strategies from planning to implementation and evaluation level by showing the gaps and challenges through evidence-based manner and statistical data on the achievements to attract funders.
She noted this as the National NGOs play a big and meaningful role at the community level where they link the community to health facilities to access the health services (HIV Testing, TB screening, counselling, etc…..
Geraldine Umutesi, Health Unit Coordinator at Imbuto Foundation encouraged all CSOs to be accountable to implement the program by using innovation to find funding strategies.
“What I can expect from this meeting is that as civil society we have learnt a lot from this meeting, we are going back to our organizations where we work and pass through the recommendations and see what we are supposed to do as civil society in the little funding that we have.” Kabanyana said.
Etienne Hakizimana, a coordinator and in charge of HIV testing in Aids Health Care Foundation (AHF) Rwanda) advises the community to use a condom to reduce new HIV transmission as it is free of charge and available at hot points within the condom Kiosks.
“I also advise people to be tested for HIV to know their life status, we have sensitized them on how to prevent from Tuberculosis and Malaria and we are moving on to help vulnerable people through working groups,” Hakizimana said.
The State Minister for Health Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi ensured to implement the recommendations taken from the meeting after his appreciation of the role played by civil society in fighting against HIV mostly by mobilizing resources.
“Civil society have been involving much in fighting against these three diseases, they played a significant role in fast tracking HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria responses through advocacy, resource mobilization and service delivery as well, we plan together, we implement together, we monitor together and we advocate together. It is very important that we are almost all reaching the aim of ending HIV/AIDS, and TB, but we do that together because we must end these diseases as you know the motto that we must have ‘Zero deaths, Zero New infections and zero stigma,” Ndimubanzi said.
“We have done the best practices for TB, push it to HIV and push it even to Malaria; we actually look at treating them early so that we can break the chain of transmission. That is something that we do and it is part of the key elements of treating strategies. Let us look at the achievements that we have together and also learn the challenges that we have and try to do better,” he added.
Official figures show that Rwanda’s HIV prevalence among the general population aged 15-49 years remained stable, at 3.0 per cent, for the last decade.
The prevalence rate remained higher in Kigali city alone at 6.3 percent than anywhere else in the country and this is different from rural areas which count 2 per cent.
According to the world health organization global report on TB 2015, One million and eight hundred thousand people died from TB that includes people living with HIV. Of these, men, women and children represented 61%, 28% and 11% respectively.