On Wednesday, July 23, I attended a special session of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), called “Putting Patients First To Improve Outcomes and Programme Efficiency.” This year, the theme of the one-week event, which gathers about 12,000 participants from across the globe, is “Stepping Up the Pace.” The objectives include indeed to find a cure and a vaccine for this terrible disease, which has already taken the lives of about 38 million people since its discovery in 1981.
This session was led by President Bill Clinton, 42th President of the United States, and founder of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Over the course of an hour, President Clinton talked about the progress and challenges made during the past years concerning the fight against HIV & AIDS.
First, he paid tribute to the AIDS delegates who lost their lives in the tragic accident of the plane, MH17. Then, he recapitulated the evolution in provision of AIDS medicines, and reminded us that, even though 13 million patients are getting treatment today, “the achievements shouldn’t be an excuse to slow down, …and an AIDS-free generation is within our reach.”
President Clinton also mentioned that international funding is decreasing, and therefore emphasized the importance of being more efficient.
Among other examples, he quoted the story of Rwanda, whose Ministry of Health (MOH): “offers the most remarkable in achieving efficiency in leadership”.
As a Rwandan delegate, I was glad to hear that. Since his first visit in Rwanda in 1998, the country has made remarkable progress, and is moving toward the 2020 Vision, which is to be 100 percent free of external aid. “Rwanda has a great story,” he said, and, in collaboration with 25 US medical institutions, the government is training people to help others to stay alive.
The country has indeed achieved major results. Among them, thanks to the community based health insurance scheme (CBHI), the most vulnerable, who are about 25 percent of the population, are now getting free access to health care. Moreover, from 2010 to 2012, the performance based financing (PBF) system permitted the annual average number of HIV provider initiated testing to more than double, passing from 33,038 to 84,605, while the HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) increased 21 percent (from 133,231 to 160,833).
And, as President Clinton said, even if “more has to be done”, this made me feel proud to be Rwandan.
Candide Tran Ngoc is a senior communications specialist for IHSSP in Rwanda.
Correction, August 5, 2014: This post was updated to fix two inadvertent errors: 1) MSH has been in Rwanda since 1983, not 1973. 2) By September 2012, over 90 percent of all eligible Rwandans were enrolled in CBHI. Since then, the percentage of eligible Rwandans has dropped to around 70 percent. For more information, download the Rwanda MOH’s “Annual Report: Community Based Health Insurance: October 2012″ (PDF).