Breaking the stigma- People living with HIV lead long and healthy lives

Breaking the stigma- People living with HIV lead long and healthy lives

RWANDA- With drugs, people living with the HIV/AIDS have been able to live normal lives because they are not sickly and are able to fend for themselves and families, which has also contributed to the reduction of stigma.

Stigma and discrimination against people infected with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda has dropped by 90 percent over recent years.

The Rwanda Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS’ 2019-2020 research indicates that young people aged 25-34 are the most susceptible to new infections and 48% of stigmatization.

Scaling up awareness campaigns, healthcare and universal access to antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS was responsible for reducing stigma.

Leonard Ntawukiramwabo, head of “Girubuzima” Cooperative of PLHIV in Nyange Sector, Musanze District, highlights the transformation of AIDS-afflicted individuals from ostracization to well-being and development work.

Ntawukiramwabo asserts that cooperatives promote access to nutritious foods and strong immune systems by adhering to ARVs.

“Its our platform that cultivates a sense of inner peace, acceptance and hope for a better future.”He said.

He added, “Do not let your HIV status destroy your life, conquer the stigma within you, and do not be afraid to say you are HIV positive.”

Alphonse Bizimana from the Muko Sector says that after establishing the PLHIV cooperative, they were no longer discriminated against and now work with other residents without issues.

But, Bizimana says, it is an uphill battle.

“Because of stigma, people do not believe in themselves. Because of stigma, people can not test for HIV. People still say, ‘I would rather not know my status than test HIV positive.” He says.

He found that what hurt people the most was not HIV itself, but the stigma attached to it.

Vestine Niyigena, after realising AIDS is a disease like any other, joined a cooperative with HIV-positive individuals, earning income from potato and other crop production.

She said, “I don’t have HIV, but we are together; we work together to develop our cooperative.”

Girubuzima Cooperative is engaged in the growing of Irish potato

Sylvie Muneza, the Chairperson of Rwanda Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (RRP+), reports that various institutions’ strategies and campaigns in the AIDS program have reduced the isolation of individuals living with the virus.

She said, “The poverty of people with HIV/AIDS was the biggest obstacle; now they have the ability thanks to the cooperatives they belong to.”

She also calls for greater public recognition of medical advances which mean people taking proper treatments pose no risk of infecting others.

“Their stories must be told to show how people with HIV lead long and healthy lives, and cannot sexually transmit HIV when on proper treatment.” Sylvie Muneza, says.

RRP+ counts 12 NGOs, 300 cooperatives and 500 associations engaged in several income-generating activities such as gardening and farming projects.

Dr. Basile Ikuzo, head of RBC’s HIV prevention department, urged journalists under Rwanda Media Network against HIV and AIDS “ABASIRWA” to use media representations of HIV/AIDS to influence positive public perceptions and attitudes towards fighting stigma and discrimination among PLHIV.

“Journalists are expected to educate the community about how HIV is a medical condition and not a moral judgement, and PLHIV have the right to live free from stigma and discrimination.” Dr. Ikuzo said.

HIV prevalence in Rwanda, according to the Ministry of Health, has been stable at 3% for the last decade and the 2018 Health Management Information system (HMIS) data shows that 227,896 people were living with HIV.

PLHIV attest that cooperatives facilitate access to nutritious foods
Dr. Basile Ikuzo, Head of RBC’s HIV Prevention Department
Sylvie Muneza, the Chairperson of Rwanda Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (RRP+)

THE RWANDA SUN

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Johnson NDEKEZI

Johnson NDEKEZI is a Journalist covering all topics in the Entertainment World as well as Political and current Affairs.

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