As part of the World AIDs Day (WAD2017) celebrations, PSF initiated the HIV testing and counseling targeting priority populations and cross border traders along Kivu Belt from 18-22nd December 2017.
Annually on 1st December, Rwanda joins the World to celebrate the World AIDS Day and commemorate the thousands of millions claimed by the epidemic. The 2017 World AIDS Day Global Theme is “Right to health” with a rationale of emphasizing universal and inalienable right to health for people living with HIV. The 2017 Rwanda’s theme is: “Get tested for HIV. If positive, Start and Stay on life-saving treatment”.
The Private Sector Federation (PSF) has in its mandate the role to promote and represent the interests of the Rwandan business community, making the program to fight HIV&AIDS fall under its core mandate as the epidemic affect more the working age population from 15-49 while the Rwandan private sector occupies 95% of the total labor market.
Fishermen on Lake Kivu are targeted by this program because of their specific working environment putting them at high risk of HIV infection. HIV and AIDS in fishing communities is a public health issue but also a fisheries development and management concern.
Because fishermen are numerous compared with people in other subpopulations with high HIV prevalence, such as injecting drug users and prisoners, the number of fishermen likely to be HIV positive may be very high, making them a priority for support for prevention, treatment and care programs for HIV and AIDS.
Mr. Leon Pierre Rusanganwa, the HIV Program Coordinator at PSF told the press that the PSF planned into its priorities, from the HIV Standard minimum Package at work place, to conduct HIV voluntary and counseling test (VCT) targeting fishermen and cross border traders including their families from 18-22nd December 2017 to reduce the new HIV transmission in accordance with the “World Aids Day (WAD) 2017 Campaign.
The 2017 WAD theme reaffirms PSF in particular and Rwanda’s commitment in general, to achieving the UNAIDS global target of 90-90-90; aiming at ensuring that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people living with HIV who know their status are receiving antiretroviral treatment and 90% of people on treatment have viral load suppression.
The activity was organized in partnership with Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF Rwanda) and Gisenyi Health Center with support from The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria with a target to reach 1,000 fishermen and cross border traders including their families and partners.
The AHF Representative in this activity, Mr. Narcisse Nteziryayo said that the AHF theme is “Dream big end it’ in tandem with the demand to step up HIV testing; given that HIV counseling and testing is a critical entry point to other HIV prevention services,” he said.
He praised and commended the PSF efforts to join hands in protecting business operators from new HIV infections and its approach in fighting stigma and discrimination against workers living with HIV. “AHF Rwanda and PSF will withstand and work hand-in-hand to stop new HIV infection for Rwanda’s future generation free form HIV,” he added.
The activity pleased the crowd coming to be voluntarily tested and those found HIV positive were immediately linked to a nearest health centers from their homes and already sources from Gisenyi Health center Manager Mr. Murisho Djuma, they have been recorded among those on treatment.
Ms. Beatha Sangwayire, in charge of HIV testing in Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) who supervised the activity called upon opinion leaders, the private sector and all different population groups to take HIV testing and enrolling on life –saving treatment seriously.
The population around the Kivu lake were pleased to get tested saying that this is an opportunity to access the service near their homes together with their families before the festival days (Christmas and new year).
“We were attending health centers but today we are delighted to see PSF organizing such an event putting together business people and our families to know our HIV status”. A fisherman said.
Over the years, PSF organized outreach programs through peer education programs, provision of information on HIV and STIs, referral for HIV testing, promotion of condom distribution and use, STI diagnosis within different work places and protecting employers and workers from all forms of stigma and discrimination against workers with HIV.