Medics warn on high HIV prevalence in Kigali city

Hope Tumukunde

Hope Tumukunde, vice-mayor in charge of social affairs: “If our children know all about sex education, it can be helpful.” (file photo)

Medical professionals have cautioned the city of Kigali to take tougher measures against the high prevalence of HIV in­fections among city residents. Current­ly Kigali hosts approximately 32% of all people infected with the disease coun­trywide, said to Dr Blaise Uhagaze, the director of public health and environ­ment at Kigali City Coucil, presenting the findings of the 2010/11 review of the city’s HIV response.

Rwanda’s HIV prevalence is estimat­ed at around 3%, equivalent to 400,000 people, but in Kigali city, figures far ex­ceed the national average with 7.1% of the adult population being HIV posi­tive. Women are most affected at 8.7% against 5.4% among adult men.

In addition, female sex workers are identified as the group most at risk with an infection rate of 56%, against 51% among prostitutes at national level.

This high prevalence rate means the authorities have to spend much mon­ey and energy not only on preventing more infections, but also on treatment for HIV positive people.

“While there is considerable political commitment and leadership in coordi­nating the HIV response in the three districts of the City of Kigali, there is an immediate need for more effective coordination and leadership at city lev­el,” Uhagaze oberved.

According to the doctor, the high prevalence might be related to the so­cial and structural drivers peculiar to city life such as rapid urbanization, ur­ban migration, urban poverty and the presence of a diverse range of vulner­able groups.

Though mayor Fidel Ndayisaba rec­ognizes the threat, but he also noted that they have been doing a consider­able work compared to the rest of East and Southern Africa bloc – all cities of the bloc have a prevalence higher than 7% of HIV, except Ethiopia, he pointed out.

Urban epidemics in cities of East and Southern Africa account for a large share of the HIV epidemic with an esti­mated 162 cities hosting approximate­ly 5.8 million adult people living with HIV/AIDS, which accounts 41% of the total epidemic. And the 30 biggest cit­ies host an estimated 4.2 million adult people living with HIV, which accounts for 30% of the epidemic in the region and 13.5% of the global epidemic.

Though there have been antiretrovi­ral drugs that help infected people pro­long life and stay healthier, the mem­bers of the Kigali city advisory council said the focus should remain on inten­sifying preventive measures.

“If our children know all about sex education, it can be helpful,” pointed out Hope Tumukunde, the city’s vice-mayor in charge of social affairs, add­ing that the education is being offered through family dialogue initiated by the ministry of gender and family pro­motion.

For those who got infected, there are about 450 accredited health centers that provide antiretroviral therapy treat­ment for free. That however is being paid with aid from donors, without which access to HIV treatment would be very difficult for many people due to its high cost. This is another argument in favor of prevention.

“The treatment is very expensive, and we get it only due to aid,” Nday­isaba said. “Our experience has been that relying on aid has never been sus­tainable. If anything happens to jeop­ardize these subsides, the situation can worsen for our HIV/AIDS sufferers. That is why we insist on preventive measures.”

Posted by on Feb 17 2013. Filed under Daily News, Health, Other News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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