There is increasing concern that AIDS might escalate in Rwanda due to financial constraints caused by a decline in funding to fight the scourge.
The US government and the Global Fund have trimmed HIV/AIDS funds by 51%, from roughly US$200 million to US$100 million, which it believed to have a diverse impact on efforts of combating new and stronger infections.
Funding has been dropping overtime. The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund reduced assistance to Rwanda in 2013.
The Rwandan government meets 40% of the funds needed for fighting HIV/AIDS under the annual budget. A large portion of the funds go crucial services such as HIV testing, psycho-social, nutritional support and public awareness campaigns.
The Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2015 says HIV prevalence in Rwanda is about 3% but with high concentration in high-risk groups like female sex workers at 45% nationwide and 51% in Kigali city. The survey indicates that HIV prevalence is higher among women at 4% than in men at 2%.
However, “We are seeing high numbers of new infections of Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis and HIV, and we need to integrate healthcare using the minimum resources available and adaptive approaches can help at various stages,” says Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, HIV Division Manager at Rwanda Biomedical Centre in Kigali.
Reduction in funding therefore means that only a half of HIV testing can be done and this may escalate the spread of the virus.
Dr. Nsanzimana says limited funds restrict efforts to direct life-saving programmes such as provision of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and key laboratory testing.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a charity organization that provides services to over 21,000 people in 20 health facilities in Districts in Rwanda is celebrating 10 years of its work in Rwanda.
Dr. Brenda Asiimwe-Kateera, the country Director for AHF said Rwanda currently has 23,704 up from 6,102 (2006) active HIV/AIDS members under care and treatment.
She said that new HIV infections were common in people aged less than 24.
Yet, Dr. Nsanzimana says the limited funds have meant downsizing the personnel and salaries, removing behavioral change activities and psychosocial and nutritional support. “We were compelled to reduce some crucial services in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” he says.
Face-to-face trainings were replaced with online trainings according to Dr. Nsanzimana.
However, the idea of online training is proving to be difficult due to lack of access to internet and a computer by people in the rural areas.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba said that her government has had to go any length to save lives and it appreciates cooperation with all organizations that fight the Aids epidemic.
“We are happy to cooperate with any organization and the government of Rwanda joins AHF to celebrate 10 years of service in the country,” said Dr. Gashumba.
She said that despite funding constraints the country has registered reduction in new HIV infections a tremendous achievement that the government celebrates together with all the healthcare partners like AHF.
AHF Rwanda officials say funding constraints undermine the progress in global HIV/AIDS fight.