Note from the Field: Rwanda Launches Initiative to Eliminate Pediatric AIDS
May 26, 2011
is helping lead the way to end new cases of HIV and AIDS in children. This progress was on display recently when the Rwandan First Lady launched the country’s national initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV
Rwandan First Lady Jeanette Kagame (center) and Rwandan
Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho hand over boxes of
antiretroviral medication to a community health worker at an
event at Ruhuha Health Center in Bugesera district in
Eastern Province (Photo: EGPAF)
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) was well represented at the launch event held on May 12th
in the Bugesera district in Rwanda’s East Province. EGPAF President and CEO Charles “Chip” Lyons and Rwanda Country Director Cornelia Van Zyl were both on hand, and attendees wore red shirts with the initiaitve's slogan clearly stated for all to read.
“Together we can eliminate Mother to Child Transmission of HIV” was printed in English on the back, and was translated into the local language Kinyarwanda on the front.
The event was led by the guest of honor, First Lady Jeanette Kagame. Mrs. Kagame has been recognized as a strong advocate in the fight against HIV since she hosted the initial African First Ladies’ Summit on Children and HIV/AIDS Prevention in Kigali in May 2001.
While speaking at the launch, she reflected back to 2000, when programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) were first launched in the country. She remarked that only a few international partners were working in this area, and making a dent in the epidemic still seemed like a distant dream.
Today, however, she sees “significant achievements have been made with PMTCT interventions, and Rwanda is able to prevent 6,500 children from acquiring HIV every year.”
Now more than 80% of health centers in the country offer PMTCT services.
“By making PMTCT the cornerstone of its national HIV and AIDS response plan, with a clear commitment to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015, Rwanda has taken an important step toward creating a generation free of HIV,” Chip Lyons said.
Chip was in Rwanda for a three-day visit to attend the launch and help commemorate the progress that EGPAF has seen on the ground since it first started working in the country more than a decade ago.
Foundation President and CEO Chip Lyons (center) and
Robert Clay, Director of USAID Global Health's Office of
HIV/AIDS (left) meet with Rwandan First Lady Jeanette
Kagame (right). (Photo: EGPAF)
He met with officials – including the new Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Stuart Symington, and representatives from UNICEF and USAID – to reinforce the partnerships that have helped so many children and mothers.
At the morning launch ceremony, Lyons was joined by UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy, the Director of the USAID Global Health Office of HIV/AIDS Robert Clay, and members of the UN family and other partners.
Speaking at the ceremony, Elhadj As Sy thanked EGPAF for contributing to global efforts to end pediatric AIDS, and hailed the progress Rwanda is making in eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“We have made the call for the elimination of vertical transmission by 2015, but without your will as government and the people, the call would be nothing,” he said.
Clay told the assembled guests that the U.S. government would continue to support Rwanda in these efforts, and that Rwanda would be an example of what’s possible in other African countries.
The event included a tour of the Ruhuha Health Center, and the ceremony concluded with Mrs. Kagame and Dr. Agnes Binagwaho handing over new antiretroviral drug regimens for PMTCT to the head of the center and a community health worker.
These new regimens include a triple combination of protective drugs that can be administered to women and babies through the breastfeeding period, and are the latest recommendations from the World Health Organization for PMTCT.
It’s clear that with continued resources and commitment, Rwanda is well on the path to eliminating new HIV infections in children.
As Chip said, “The Foundation looks forward to continuing our work with the government of Rwanda to realize this ambitious – but achievable – goal.”
Knowing what this goal would mean – a generation free of HIV – we were honored to be present at the launch.
Rwanda from EGPAF on Vimeo.
Esperance Nikuze is a Communications Officer in the Foundation’s Rwanda office, based in Kigali.