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A recent report released by UNAIDS has recognized Rwanda as one of the top four countries that have effectively managed the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The country has achieved significant milestones in terms of treatment, testing, and raising awareness about HIV status among its population.

Titled "Are efforts for HIV prevention waning?" the report, unveiled on Thursday, July 13, revealed that Rwanda, along with Botswana, Eswatini, and Tanzania, has successfully met the "95-95-95" targets set by UNAIDS.

The "95-95-95" target entails ensuring that 95 percent of individuals living with HIV in a country are aware of their status, 95 percent of those aware of their HIV-positive status are receiving antiretroviral treatment, and 95 percent of people on treatment have achieved viral suppression.

The report further highlights that 16 other countries, including eight in sub-Saharan Africa, a region accounting for 65 percent of all HIV-positive individuals, are also close to achieving these targets.

"The end of AIDS is an opportunity for a uniquely powerful legacy for today's leaders," Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS said. "They could be remembered by future generations as those who put a stop to the world's deadliest pandemic. They could save millions of lives and protect the health of everyone. They could show what leadership can do," she added.

The report emphasizes that successful HIV responses rely on strong political leadership, data-driven decision-making, addressing inequalities, empowering communities and civil society organizations, and ensuring sufficient and sustainable funding.

"Notably, the most significant progress has been observed in countries and regions that have made substantial financial investments, such as eastern and southern Africa, where new HIV infections have decreased by 57 percent since 2010," the report noted.

Globally, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment has nearly quadrupled, rising from 7.7 million in 2010 to 29.8 million in 2022.

However, the report also emphasizes that ending AIDS requires intentional efforts and cannot be achieved automatically.

"In 2022, AIDS claimed a life every minute. Approximately 9.2 million people still lack access to treatment, including 660,000 children living with HIV," the report stated.

The report highlights the disproportionate impact of HIV on women and girls, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Global statistics reveal that in 2022, 4,000 young women and girls were newly infected with HIV each week. Currently, only 42 percent of districts with HIV incidence over 0.3 percent in sub-Saharan Africa have dedicated HIV prevention programs for adolescent girls and young women," the report emphasized.

To put an end to AIDS, the report recommends increasing political will and investing in sustainable HIV response, including evidence-based prevention and treatment programs and health system integration.

According to the report, an estimated 39 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2022, with 29.8 million accessing antiretroviral therapy. During the same year, 1.3 million individuals acquired HIV, while 630,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

The Rwanda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (RPHIA), a comprehensive country-wide survey conducted in 2019, revealed that the prevalence of HIV among Rwandans aged 15-64 is 3 percent. - Hudson Kuteesa, The New Times

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