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Rwanda lauded for its fight against HIV/AIDS

UN and European officials laud Rwanda for its fight against HIV/AIDS

With a quarter million people living with HIV, Rwanda has one of the Sub-Saharan continent’s highest treatment rates for this virus and is a model for other countries battling HIV/AIDS, a team of top European and United Nations officials visiting the country said today.

The humanitarian officials lauded the Rwandan government for its progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but said the central African nation must ensure that international funding is spent on the citizens most at risk for HIV as well as people living with and affected by AIDS.

“Rwanda is moving into a new phase of the AIDS response, where the quality of the response and sustainability are crucial,” said Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

Other members of the delegation were Sir Suma Chakrabarti, Permanent Secretary in the United Kingdom Department for International Development, Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Jean-Louis Schiltz, Luxembourg Minister for Development and Humanitarian Action.

The mission leaders concluded that the Rwandan Government had a solid foundation in place for battling the illness. As of September 2005, more than half of the country’s 365 health facilities were offering services to prevent mother-to-child transmission. According to national estimates, the number of people receiving anti-retroviral therapy increased from 8,700 in 2004 to more than 19,000 by the end of 2005.

The mission also recommended stronger coordination efforts among the government, donors and civil society to ensure that increased international funding for AIDS is effective.

According to the 2004 UNAIDS Global Report, about 22,000 of the 250,000 people living with HIV in Rwanda are children under the age of 15. This 250,000 figure represents about 3 per cent of the landlocked nation’s overall population of nearly 8.5 million, according to the Demographic Health Survey 2005.

Rwanda has one of the highest proportions of orphans on the sub-Saharan African continent. About 30 per cent of all children under 18 years of age were orphaned according to the last census in 2002. About 160,000 of the estimated 1.3 million orphans were left alone because their parents died of AIDS-related causes.

“For too long, children have been the missing face of the AIDS pandemic,” said Ms. Veneman. “We must work to provide protection, care and treatment for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.”

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