Today, we have come a long way since the first case of HIV was discovered. We have made great advancements since the time of desperation, when it seemed as though an epidemic would destroy our families, our countries, and our continent. This progress has not been made through coincidence or chance. Rather, it has required great solidarity among global partners and a deep commitment to refuse to let future generations share the same fate of too many of our friends, parents, brothers and sisters. Together as global partners we have begun the defeat of the epidemic.
As a country, Rwanda has worked tirelessly to protect, care and advocate for children, mothers and families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our collective efforts have helped us halve new HIV infections and increase sixfold the trend in testing among young women — from about 10 percent in 2005 to almost 60 percent in 2010.
Through community engagement and ownership, we have trained 45,000 Community Health Workers nation-wide (three per village) who sensitize and teach the community about HIV prevention, testing and adherence to treatment. In a broader sense, the community health workers also raise awareness about nutrition, maternal and childcare, and provide general advice on health issues. They also ensure a continuum of interventions from the health facility to the community and help improve access to services for underserved populations. The beauty in the progress we are making in the fight against AIDS in Africa is that it is a catalyst to boost entire health systems on our continent.
Defeating AIDS once and for all can seem like a daunting task, maybe even mission impossible, but it is made easier with the right kind of leadership and committed partners. We are fortunate to have both: deliberate leaders dedicated to doing all they can to better the lives of citizens and development partners like the Global Fund that support our fight against AIDS, TB and malaria with crucial resources, while helping us bolster our national health systems.
Next week, world leaders will gather in Washington, D.C. to launch funding commitments for the next three years towards defeating AIDS, TB and malaria through the Global Fund. The staggering progress we’ve made in Africa in the fight against the three diseases would never have been possible without the global solidarity demonstrated through strong international support for the Global Fund, which I hope will continue in the years to come. But we must recognize that a sustainable, healthy future for our continent is ultimately in our own hands, and we must share the responsibility by growing our economies and increasing our domestic health resources.
From the ashes of our troubled past, we are committed as Rwandans and Africans to rise as the generation that will be remembered for defeating the diseases that once threatened our collective existence. Africa should be ready! We must endeavor to sustain the progress made and ensure that the future of Africa’s health is secured by our commitment. The worst is behind us. Now we know how to prevent, how to treat and how to care. We are ready for the next step, and hope the world will join us.