From L-R: Steve MacDonald, session moderator, HE Mrs. Jeannette Kagame and Honorable Ngozi Iweala, Nigerian Minister of Finance
The First Lady, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, has lauded Global Fund’s tremendous support to the African continent in fighting HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
Mrs. Kagame made the remarks on December 2, 2013 in Washington D.C. at a conference themed “Going the Whole Nine Yards: What is needed for an Africa free of AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria?”
The conference was hosted by ‘Friends of the Global Fund Africa’, ahead of Global Fund’s 4th replenishment.
In her remarks, Mrs. Kagame commended the Global Fund for moving along with Africans in the fight against what she termed the “Big 3”.
“Since 2002, the Global Fund has travelled a long journey with us. Despite these lives that are at stake, great advancements have been made. Global Fund has disbursed 59 percent of all its funds to the African continent.
I believe it has been one of the most effective mechanisms established to fight the “Big 3”. I trust my brothers and sisters from Africa will agree with me that the Global Fund made the right investment, in the right continent,” The First Lady told the conference.
Rwanda’s remarkable progress
Citing Rwanda’s progress in the fight against the “Big 3’’, the First Lady stressed that: “New HIV infections have been reduced by 50 percent in the last decade and Mortality associated with HIV fell by almost 80 percent, the greatest reduction in the world from 2002-2012.”
Mrs. Kagame added that in addition; 89 percent of patients suffering from malaria have prompt access and are able to correctly use, affordable and appropriate treatment, with Malaria incidence having declined by 74 percent, between 2005 and 2012 while, without creating stigma 4 quarantine sites were established to counter the incidence of multi-drug resistance for Tuberculosis.
On this level, according to the First Lady, 89 percent of Tuberculosis patients are successfully treated and the country’s population has universal access to health insurance.
“Patients receive comprehensive care and the rate of healing is remarkable,” said the First Lady
The First Lady, however, told the conference that despite the remarkable progress Rwanda has made, beginning of its story is desolate.
“Our story as a country is a bleak one. We started at a very low base; essentially, we had nothing. We were up against serious odds. The Genocide against the Tutsi left us with inconceivable losses.
Most of Rwanda’s infrastructure for treating Tuberculosis was completely destroyed. Patients, who had been on treatment, became refugees and were unable to complete their therapy. Thousands went undiagnosed and untreated. As a result, we faced a major burden of multidrug-resistant disease.”
The First Lady added: “Similarly, supply chains for malaria diagnostics and treatment, were disrupted for years. Children went without treatment; Rwanda faced the highest child mortality rate in the world, for several years after the genocide. More than 1 in 4 children died, before their fifth birthday.
After all the fatalities we had incurred, we understood too well the value of every single, precious life. We decided to rapidly adopt and work with an “everything is a priority” mindset.”
Setting a clear vision
To tackle the above challenges, Mrs. Kagame told the conference that “A clear vision was put in place to guide us through this storm. The people, who were to implement Rwanda’s vision, were the very same people at risk, either by being already infected by diseases, or at high risk to become infected.
We devised strategies and approaches that we believed would suitably serve our people. Due to the flexibility of the Global Fund, which allows countries to implement their national strategies, we were able to use the Global Fund to effectively achieve our overall vision.”
Launching HIV national strategic plan
As part of continued commitment to fight HIV, the First Lady told the conference that Rwanda is launching its 2013-2018 HIV national strategic Plan. “The government, civil society and other stakeholders collectively assessed where we are, where we want to go and how we want to get there.”
Stressing some of the strategies and approaches that have yielded gains for the country, the First Lady highlighted them as prevention, treatment, care, and impact mitigation.
“Often, there is debate about the merits of prevention versus treatment versus mitigation. Rwanda’s experience and results framework dictated, that we embrace a holistic approach, if we are to make a real difference. Under prevention, we have placed emphasis on Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission of HIV.
Our HIV positive pregnant women and their children, have access to PMTCT services in 85 percent of our health facilities. It costs much less to offer an HIV positive woman, a full treatment regimen during pregnancy, than to cater for her infected children, for the rest of their lives.
The number of HIV testing and treatment sites has increased significantly in the last 10 years, during which time 456 out of 502 health centers, were equipped to provide comprehensive HIV services.”
Mrs.Kagame said that in Rwanda 95% of malaria cases are managed at community level. Community health workers are central to the effective functioning of our health system. Rwanda has 45,000 of them and as the name suggests, they intervene at community level.
On impact mitigation, Mrs. Kagame said the first step in fighting disease is to know one’s status. “For this, we need people to muster the courage to be tested and receive treatment. This cannot happen as long as stigma continues to exist, as a barrier. Including HIV+ people at the heart of our societies, as dynamic individuals, is the only way we can progress and prosper as nations. Efforts in this regard, must be absolutely sustained.”
Global Fund support vital
The First Lady pointed out that the need for continued support from the Global Fund.
“The support of the Global Fund is vital, until a time comes when we can take over. Our leaders are working diligently to be self-reliant in the near future, so that we can be capable of sustaining our people’s health needs. With sustained financing from Global Fund, coupled with impressive economic growth in Africa, we are moving yet another step closer to our dream, of becoming a self-reliant people.”
Other speakers at the conference were Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Mark Dybul, Global Fund Executive Director.
It was also attended by Government representatives, civil society, members of the private sector as well as various foundations.