by Steve Terrill
Sunday marked World AIDS Day and that gave Rwanda a chance to highlight the country’s success in battling the disease. Rwanda has been especially effective at reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. The Rwandan population still has a high prevalence of infection compared to its neighbors but the rate of new infections continues to drop. And while Rwanda utilizes ARV’s better than any other country in the world, Kigali is also has an unmatched ability to leverage such achievements into skillfully coordinated public relations success.
On Tuesday Rwanda launched its widely publicized ‘non-surgical’ circumcision drive to combat HIV/AIDS and all the major outlets ran features on the program. On Friday, Rwandan Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, wrote a glowing “how to” piece for US News on “Combating AIDS and the Global Health Worker Shortage” in the developing world. The same day, First Lady Jeannette Kagame contributed to the Huffington Post highlighting Rwanda’s public health successes while calling for continued support. Indeed it’s hard to overstate Rwanda’s achievements against HIV/AIDS area but that didn’t stop the Atlantic from trying on Sunday.
Finally, this week UNICEF issued their 2013 Children and AIDS interactive report, bursting with stunning photographs, facts and figures. The report is not only a good primer on the state of the global youth HIV/AIDS battle, it’s a superb example of how an organization–with enough will and resources–can present complex data in a way that is both beautiful and accessible. Yes, Rwanda fares well in the data.
Even the country’s harshest critics have to acknowledge Rwanda’s triumph in battling HIV/AIDS.UNAIDS calls the Rwandan approach a “glimpse of the future”. But there’s still work to be done. For example, basic tools for preventing HIV transmission need to be more accessible to those most at risk. In Rwanda, one small pack of condoms still costs days wages. That gives young, sexually active Rwandanan awkward incentive to avoid taking precautions.