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Rwanda: World Aids Day – HIV+ Men Tipped on Medication

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Despite the recent progress made towards achieving HIV epidemic control, medics have pointed out some sticking issues that need to be addressed in order to maintain the gains, as well as advancing the fight against the virus.

Results from the Rwanda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment, a nation-wide survey released in October showed that among other things the country exceeded some of the 2020 targets set by the United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The survey showed that 76 percent of all HIV-positive adults have achieved viral load suppression, a figure that slightly beats UNAIDS' target of 73 percent by 2020.

Such figures show that the country is on a positive trajectory in the fight against the disease; however, medics say there are still things to be addressed.

One of the sticking issues is the reluctance of HIV positive men towards taking medication, respecting prescriptions and maintaining a healthy lifestyle; a vice that is blamed for lower levels of viral load suppression among them than their female counterparts.

The RPHIA results showed that men's viral load suppression stands at 65.7 per cent compared with 79.1 per cent among women.

This makes infected men to be more menaced by HIV/AIDS-related illnesses than women, despite the fact that the HIV prevalence rate is higher among women (3.7%), and lower among men (2.2).

"We have observed that females have a higher prevalence of HIV, but for all other indicators, men are doing poorly. They (men) are the ones who don't want to go for testing, don't take treatment correctly, don't suppress the virus, and they are the ones who even die more," said Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

"It is a serious concern that men don't take medicine correctly," he said.

Asked what could be the reason for men's reluctance to take medicine, Nsanzimana speculated that some men might have a mentality that they are strong enough to resist the virus, among other things like unhealthy habits for example alcoholism.

"Even if they feel sick, they (men) push hard, don't rest. Finally they get tuberculosis which is the main killer of people living with HIV," he said.

A female patient living with HIV told Sunday Times that women respect prescriptions treatment because they look at factors like their children whom they don't want to grow up without mothers.

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She said that sensitization is something that should be done to help men to respect treatment.

Among other issues raised is that people are taking HIV for granted.

Aphrodis Kagaba, the Executive Director HDI-Rwanda said people are taking the epidemic for granted since "it is talked about many times, but they should remember that it is still there."

Among other things, Kagaba spoke about the high infection threat among young women in Rwanda.

RPHIA figures showed that HIV prevalence among young women aged 20-24 years was 1.8 percent, a figure that showcases that the epidemic is three times higher in young women than men in the same age group (0.6 percent).

He said that some of the issues that make women more exposed to the virus include economic factors, where some go for sex for money, among other issues like the nature of the sexual organs which makes women to be more easily exposed to STIs.

Here, he called for more measures to educate women concerning the epidemic.

Hopefully, those are some of the issues that will be raised today as Rwanda joins the world to mark the World AIDS Day, an event held on December 1st to commemorate people who lost their lives to HIV, reflect on progress made in responding to the epidemic, and recommit to ending it.

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