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Rwanda making considerable gains in HIV response

Wednesday, 16 April, 2014

Scale-up of HIV service coverage in Rwanda has led to HIV diagnoses being cut by half and annual incidence (the rate of new HIV infections) dropping by 90 percent. Despite the number of people testing for HIV increasing, new HIV diagnoses fell from 37,000 people in 2007 to 13,000 in 2013. It is estimated that the true HIV incidence (taking account of increases in testing) decreased almost tenfold between 2004 and 2012.

HIV prevalence in Rwanda is 2.9 percent. An estimated 93 percent of people who are aware of their status and have a CD4 count (a measure of how strong the immune system is) below 350 cells/mm 3 are on treatment. Rwanda is currently exploring the cost of moving to the 2013 World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to treat people with a CD4 count below 500 cells/mm 3; a move which would further reduce AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections. Taking treatment both improves the health of people living with HIV and makes them less infectious by decreasing the level of the virus in their bodies.

The small east African nation of Rwanda was one of the first countries globally to achieve universal coverage of HIV treatment in accordance with the WHO’s 2009 guidelines. While treatment coverage challenges remain, Rwanda may hold many lessons for other nations in Africa and around the around.