Panafrican News Agency

Rwandan First lady calls for reduction of gender inequalities to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - Rwandan First Lady Jeannette Kagame on Monday called on all stakeholders to join hands to reduce gender inequalities as an essential tool to efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa stressing that a healthy population is also critical to achieving current demographic dividend. 

A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that although HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic, the majority of people living with it are in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only part of the world where HIV prevalence and AIDS deaths are higher for women than for men.

Speaking at the opening of a week-long International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), the Rwandan First Lady noted that concerted efforts, between public and private stakeholders, have resulted in notable progress toward ending AIDS, at different levels. 

"It should be an opportunity for us to have genuine and open conversations, about the diverse challenges, including those resulting from gender inequality, that keep holding Africa back in terms of effectively preventing HIV/AIDS among our people," she said.

The Mozambican President Filipe Jacint Nyusi arrived in Kigali, Monday to attend the conference.

The 20th ICASA summit in Kigali is being attended by the First Lady of Botswana Neo Masisi and her Chadian counterpart Hinda Deby Itno, among other dignitaries, who are expected to attend the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) forum scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the event.

The Rwandan First Lady became a founding member of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) in 2002 and served as its President from 2004.

Commenting on these interventions, she explained that OAFLA was born, out of the collective need, to amplify the voices of those living with, and affected by HIV and AIDS, especially the most vulnerable among them: women and children.

"As we gain more ground in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the strategies and scope of our organisation as a whole, have evolved - reflecting a deeper understanding, and appreciation of our reach, as first ladies," she said.

Building on those gains, Mrs Kagame's foundation "Imbuto" (Seeds), has been focusing on designing and implementing projects, which align with national and international priorities such as Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation, the Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the SDGs.

"Projects, such as Family Package, born to address Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) needs, offer a comprehensive package of services to families affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as teenage mothers," she said.

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission refers to interventions to prevent transmission of HIV from an HIV-positive mother to her infant during pregnancy, labour, delivery, or breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, WHO recommends that women must be protected if the AIDS epidemic is to be checked.

It is therefore essential for governments to implement gender-sensitive policies, WHO said. 

-0- PANA TWA/MA 2Dec2019