This Wednesday 21st November 2012, the 8th Annual National Pediatric Conference on Children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS opened at the Kigali Serena Hotel attended by stakeholders.
Jean D’Arc Gakuba the Vice President of Rwanda Senate opened the conference by highlighting the role of families in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Hon. Gakuba said families critical role was especially in preventing infection of children. She said communities at Umudugudu [village] level should make sure all pregnant women access antenatal care and deliver at health centers so as to be tested and access PMTCT services.
The conference is being held under the theme “Strengthening Community Ownership for Equitable, Effective and Sustainable Response to HIV among Children in Rwanda”.
Hon. Gakuba also called upon district Vice Mayors in charge of social affairs to put resolutions of this conference on top of their Imihigo from family to district level.
Hon. Gakuba who represented the Senate President Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuliryayo assured that all Members of Parliament were committed to the end of HIV/AIDS by fighting together with government and communities. She promised that MPs will go to the grassroots and talk to communities.
Health Minister Dr Agnes Binagwaho said the 8th Conference was a sign of progress, that however the presence of young children showed that was still a long way to go. She said Rwanda was in the process of making it and the HIV fight should be mainstream and permanent in all people’s lives.
UN Resident Coordinator Lamin Manneh commended the leadership of President Kagame and his team particularly Dr Binagwaho for their role in leading the country to big achievements in health sector.
Mr. Manneh said Rwanda had made significant steps to transformative change and is recognized across the continent as a country to emulate. He said the UN family was privileged to be associated with this initiative.
He reiterated primary prevention of HIV is society and said the 97 percent Rwandans who are negative can access safe prevention services.
While presenting at the opening, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Head of HIV/AIDs and STI’s division at Rwanda Biomedical Center said that there are about 1,500 new infections among children and 10,000 new general infections every year in Rwanda.
He however noted that there has been great improvement in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS and Anti retroviral treatment (ART’s) coverage.
Dr Nsanzimana added that people can now access ART’s in almost all health facilities in Rwanda.
“There are currently around 107,000 people (over 90 percent) infected with HIV and have access to ART’s in Rwanda. The prevalence rate is still at 3%,” he added.
Community involvement to HIV response is still low according to Dr Nsanzimana.
He urged the community to get more involved in the prevention and care for persons infected with HIV, adding that when the community is engaged, they own the activity.
The Conference which concludes on Friday 23rd November will see various studies and research papers presented and discussed.
The opening event was characterised by performances, music and cheerful singing by children representing districts across the country.
According to official statement, over 400 policy makers, international organisations and national researchers, children, health care providers, development partners and NGOs are attendance the conference.
The Conference will provide a high level advocacy forum for the Rwandan national community to recognize that successes in the eradication of HIV infection among children and adolescents and women and the mitigation of AIDS related impact on them, rely on the engagement families and community to take leadership, demonstrate ownership, and sustain the response.
The objective of this seminar is to enhance the fight against HIV among children with a focus on prevention of mother to child transmission, HIV prevention among youth and adolescents, Pediatric HIV care, treatment and protection of orphans and vulnerable children.
More pictures during the opening ceremony >>>>