Rwanda Celebrates World AIDS Day
December 6, 2010
In Rwanda, the World AIDS Day 2010 theme was “Protecting oneself and others against HIV is everyone’s responsibility. I choose to use condoms.” It was celebrated in the Western Province, Rubavu District, located at the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was invited by the government to help plan the day’s events, which included a soccer match and a condom use demonstration by parliamentarians. On Tuesday, our technical advisor, Dr. Sowaf Ubarijoro, and I drove to the Western Provence town of Gisenyi.
The following morning we left our hotel rooms around 9:00 a.m., very excited to join others at Nengo playground for the opening ceremonies and the soccer match between two local teams—Etincelle and Marins FC. The match was tied after the first half at 1-1 with no scoring in the second half, which took it into overtime. Etincelle won on penalty kicks.
Players from Etincelle and Marins FC on the pitch with fans lining the field.
Gisenyi is a breathtaking area with majestic views of Lake Kivu, beaches for swimming, and good fishing. The area attracts many tourists at all times of the year. In addition, Gisenyi is a place many people travel through, as they cross the border between Rwanda and DRC. People on vacation, and people traveling through the area are likely to participate in activities that may put them at risk for acquiring HIV/AIDS. As a result, the Mayor explained, a place like Gisenyi, while beautiful and relaxing, is an important place to emphasize the risk of HIV/AIDS and the need for consistent condom use.
Political leaders from Rwanda demonstrate correct condom use and advocate for increased use of condoms to the crowd.
Political leaders demonstrated their commitment to WAD 2010 when a group of parliamentarians demonstrated correct condom use. The Mayor clarified that condoms could be used when abstinence fails and also for family planning, as the Rubavu district is among the most highly populated in Rwanda. “Rwanda has won many battles. It will not fail to combat HIV,” he proclaimed. A representative of Muslims in Rwanda (Mufti) spoke on behalf of religious institutions. He insisted on the importance of using condoms to protect ourselves and our families, especially children. He also addressed the importance of male circumcision as another way to protect against HIV.
Anne Casper, Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy, delivered her speech in Kinyarwanda—Rwanda’s native language. She said that HIV infected and affected people all have to fight the same battle against HIV with hope to win. She reminded us that her country created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in order to help countries like Rwanda combat HIV and AIDS. “The battle is still going on, we should all fight together, the infected and the uninfected. As one team, we shall win,” concluded Casper.
Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Anne Casper speaks to the crowd on World AIDS Day.
The guest of honor, Dr. Anita Asiimwe, the Executive Secretary of the National AIDS Control commission, talked about HIV rates in Rwanda and insisted on the importance of prevention, reminding us that though the antiretroviral therapy exists, a good number of people face difficulties caused by those drugs. She encouraged the population to protect themselves by using condoms.
World AIDS Day coincided with the launch of a three month long campaign that continues across the country on the grassroots level where districts and health centers will organize Voluntary Counseling and Testing activities and other events to raise awareness about HIV. The Foundation will carry out these activities in all 45 Foundation-supported sites and administrative districts in Rwanda.
It was a wonderful day, filled with hope for the future of Rwanda, and the fight against AIDS around the world.
Esperance Nikuze is a Regional Communications and Advocacy Officer, based in Kigali, Rwanda.