HIV/AIDS and Gender Issues Advanced During CHF International CHAMP Forum in Rwanda

HIV/AIDS and Gender Issues Advanced During CHF International CHAMP Forum in Rwanda

SILVER SPRING, Md., March 14, 2006 – Nearly 400 Rwandan women and men from a range of professional and socioeconomic backgrounds gathered together on the occasion of International Women’s Day for a forum that examined the feminization of HIV/AIDS, and celebrated both the country’s achievements and the anticipated challenges to come.

The forum, entitled, “The Role of Female Leadership in the Fight against HIV/AIDS,” was sponsored by CHF International’s Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Program (CHAMP)–which is supported by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the US Agency for International Development–and by the Rwandan government’s national HIV/AIDS coordination body, the Commission Nationale de Lutte contre le SIDA (CNLS).

Several key leaders of the fight against HIV/AIDS in Rwanda spoke at the event, including CNLS President Reverend Pastor Gasatura Nathan; CNLS Executive Secretary Dr. Agnes Binagwaho; USAID/Rwanda Mission Director Mr. Kevin Mullally; Rwandan Senator Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo (a member of Forum of Female Parliamentarians); CHAMP Country Director Judith St. Fort; and CHAMP Deputy Director Dr. Blaise Karibushi.

The conference also included the presentations of leading women from local HIV/AIDS programs on topics that examined the realities of the epidemic in Rwanda and in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition, the forum fostered a lively debate among participants on concerns and issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and women, in the local Kinyarwanda language, and included the testimony of an HIV-positive woman whose life has changed as a result of receiving antiretroviral treatment and income generation support from a local women’s organization. Completing the event was a series of song and dance performances by a group of women living with HIV/AIDS that highlighted how behavior change can protect communities from the ravaging effects of infection.

The goal of the 4-year CHAMP program is to provide Rwandan communities with equitable access to a high- quality, sustainable continuum HIV/AIDS services. CHAMP is accomplishing this through capacity building that is mobilizing and strengthen the ability of Rwandan organizations and the government in providing the continuum of community-based HIV/AIDS services; improving and expanding the continuum of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care services for communities throughout Rwanda, including care and support to orphans and vulnerable children; and by building and strengthening linkages and referral systems among Rwandan communities, community-based HIV/AIDS service providers, and public/private medical health service providers.

In addition to CHF International, the CHAMP consortium includes a dynamic set of partners including Catholic Relief Services/Caritas, Johns Hopkins University/Center for Communications Programs, Social Impact, Rwanda Network of PLWHA, Pro-Femmes, Rwanda Women’s Network, Pamasor, Urunana, Icyuzuzo, We-ACTx, SWAA and CARE. The majority of CHAMP activities are implemented by CHAMP Rwandan Partner Organizations, and building the sustainability of local Rwandan partners is a major programmatic priority.