December 5, 2011
Celebrating World AIDS Day in Rwanda
The Foundation's Rwanda team commemorated World AIDS Day at the country's official event, which took place at the Petit Stade in Kigali City. The Foundation participated extensively in planning the event, which launched a three-month-long campaign that will continue in districts throughout Rwanda.
Along with government officials, UN organizations, and NGOs such as the Foundation, youth from three districts in Kigali who finished their secondary studies in October were invited to attend. The youth wore t-shirts color-coded to represent their home districts in Rwanda's flag colors - green, blue, and yellow. The upbeat mood of the afternoon matched the theme: Youth, let us join efforts in protecting ourselves and others against HIV for a brighter future.
The event featured skits performed by local actors portraying HIV-related issues, including conversations between parents and children on sexual health and HIV, as well as the importance of condom use. The skits also portrayed happy-living by HIV positive people, including an HIV positive girl receiving support from her friends who sang her a song called, “Life goes on” (Ubuzima burakomeza in the official language of Kinyarwanda). Several young Rwandan pop stars also performed and were joined on the stage by singing and dancing kids.
The Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, Mr. Protais Mitali, spoke and reminded the kids that they are the future of Rwanda and, therefore, it is very important that they protect themselves from HIV. He also talked about the importance of abstinence, but that if abstinence is not possible, condoms should be used to both protect against HIV as well as unwanted pregnancies. He spoke out against adults, locally referred to as “sugar daddies” and “sugar mommies,” who take sexual advantage of young people and provide them with money or gifts. HIV testing was also available for those who were interested. The presence and enthusiasm of the youth made the event energetic and uplifting.
Over the next three months, the districts will organize their own activities focusing on discussions of HIV and its impact on youth, as well as discussions with children in secondary schools related to reproductive health issues. That way, the spirit of World AIDS Day can infuse every day.
Jill Peterson is a senior strategic information advisor for the Foundation, based in Kigali, Rwanda