Rwanda Biomedical Center and its partners in the fight against HIV/Aids has called on Rwandans to remember that the virus is equally a danger as COVID.
Erneste Nyirinkindi, in charge of HIV/Aids information, education and behavioral change communication at RBC said that the persons living with HIV Aids shouldn’t stop taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) despite some facing challenges of lack of food during this Covid-19 crisis.
“It doesn’t require a patient to eat before taking medication because the medication (ARVs) we provide don’t require one to eat first, even though eating is very important for surviving and to have a health body” Nyirinkindi said.
The official was officiating a virtual AIDS awareness festival held this weekend in Kigali to celebrate the world AIDS day in Rwanda organized by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Rwanda- one of the government’s key partner in HIV/Aids prevention and treatment.
Nyirinkindi used the festival to remind Rwandans living with HIV/Aids to stay positive minded and to take medication stating that even if one lacked food, this shouldn’t be a reason for going off medication.
“You may not eat today but tomorrow you will. In order for us to reach our goals we need patients to stay on medication because the viral count is only reduced by medication,” Nyirinkindi said.
Currently all Rwandans living with HIV/Aids get free ARVs and the needy ones are given free nutritious diets which are distributed at community based health centers countrywide.
Jeannette Mukamana* (not real names) a HIV positive who lost her office cleaning job in March due to Covid-19 said that she was worried to take medication since she has to walk long distances looking for a temporary job to get food on her table.
“I didn’t know that one can take ARVs without having eaten. I think it’s a mindset issue; we all have the fear of getting food first, which needs to change,” Mukamana said.
A new Rwanda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (RPHIA)survey indicates that about 5,400 adults aged from 15-64 years old are infected with HIV/AIDS annually, while prevalence among adults in the country stands at 3.0%, representing approximately 210,200 adults, with more women (3.7%) than men (2.2%) living with the deadly virus.
AHF Rwanda Country Director, Dr. Brenda Asiimwe Kateera said that the organization currently supports over 30,000 patients and even with Covid-19, the main focus has been to ensure access to medication though preventive efforts are needing as the organization plans to distribute over 4million condoms next year.
“Let’s not forget HIV Aids is a pandemic and needs additional efforts, as individuals we need to prevent new infections and ensure to take drugs well, that way we will be able to achieve a good HIV response,” Dr. Kateera said.
Patricie Mukangarambe, the Director of public health and environment in City of Kigali said that there is need to refocus their efforts on youth mobilization and education who have especially been trapped in a lack of preventive methods due to Covid-19.