09 April 2003
Kigali, Rwanda – “I don’t want to know whether or not I am HIV positive. Today I am 39 years old, and statistically I have a life expectancy of another ten years before I die anyway. Besides, antiretroviral drugs are barely available in my country,” says Innocent, a Kigali resident.
Following the signing (right) of an historic grant agreement between the Government of Rwanda and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) is going to be available throughout the entire country, rehabilitating and upgrading existing health centers, and constructing new ones to service all of its 8 million citizens.
The Government of Rwanda, the “Land of a Thousands Hills”, bordered by Tanzania, Burundi, Congo and Uganda, is making far-reaching progress restructuring and rebuilding the country in the continuing aftermath of the horrors of its 1994 genocide.
The immediate results of granting Rwanda US$8.4 million for the next two years will be a massive training and skills building exercise involving almost three-quarters of the country’s health care workers, providing access to treatment for opportunistic infections, including tuberculosis, and increasing the availability of antiretroviral drugs for the country’s 500,000 adults and children living with HIV.
Recognizing that VCT is a first step towards a wider range of care and support services, Rwanda’s proposal includes complementary services and activities in and around health centers offering a comprehensive package of care and support. The work financed by the Global Fund is to be coordinated by the Ministry of Health with several key implementing partners such as the National University, the Treatment and Research AIDS Center, the National Association for Supporting People Living with AIDS, and the Rwanda National Youth Council.
It is this ‘integrated VCT’ concept that makes the country’s proposal - now actively financed by the Global Fund - unique and commendable to other countries around the world.