She made the call on Wednesday, 4th December during discussions aimed at finding a permanent solution to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among teenage girls in Africa. The talks were part of the ongoing International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa that will end on December 7th, 2019.
A research conducted in October, 2019 in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ICAP at Columbia University reported that new infections among women aged between 55-59 is at 6.5% and men aged between 50-59 is on 7.4%.
New infections among teenagers are relatively worrying particularly among teenagers in their 20s. Research shows that young girls aged between 20 and 24 get infected with HIV at a 1.8% rate which is three times higher than young boys who are infected at a 0.6% rate.
Around the world, HIV infection among teenagers is very worrying especially in Sub-Saharan countries where at least 6000 teenagers get infected daily.
Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame says that they should be responsible for choosing the right path for their life and a future they will be proud of.
“What will it take for you to know the power you possess? You are the pillars of our society and you have the ability to change your life for the better and positively impact the lives of those around you.”
She added that even though teenagers have this power, they are still the most vulnerable group in society and are still at a high risk of being HIV infected.
Teenage girls and young women who are HIV positive are double the numbers of men the same age.
“Despite these numbers, we still have hope for a better future given that the number of newly HIV infected teenagers reduced by 43% between 2009 and 2013. In Rwanda, the number of HIV victims reduced by 82% in the past 20 years.”
However, Jeannette Kagame says that there is still a long way to go and that it cannot be tolerated that HIV claims so many young lives who could have been future leaders.
“We are still striving for a better life for every citizen, but teenage girls and young women need help in particular. I have a question for the youth in this room. What contribution are you giving to fight HIV? What kind of help are you expecting from adults? What are you waiting for to fight for your lives? This battle will only be won if we join forces."
She mentioned that the ICASA conference will serve as a platform for teenagers to learn about their reproductive rights and everything about human anatomy.
Imbuto Foundation role in fighting HIV epidemic
The First Lady says that Imbuto Foundation created programs to educate teenagers between 10 and 12 years of age so that they can be aware of their reproductive rights.
The programs also sensitize teenagers to embrace the culture of saving and contributing to uprooting poverty.
“Imbuto Foundation has helped more than 30,000 learn about reproduction, get free HIV testing and educated about how to fight rape and sexual abuse.”
“We reconcile teenage girls who were impregnated with their families and sensitize parents to teach their children about reproduction.”
She urged everyone to contribute to stopping the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among teenage girls and young women.
Joyce Amondi Ouma, an HIV positive Kenyan woman called African government to support financially teenagers who drop out of school because she sees this as the main cause many get infected with HIV.
In her testimony, she said she knew she was HIV positive when she was 17 years old and that she has been living with it for five years now.
“When I learned that I was infected, all my friends started stigmatizing me and I thought I was going to die.”
Amondi says that she was later accepted in her society and that she founded an association called ‘Sauti Skika’ that supports HIV positive people.
She said that poverty is a common problem in Africa that affects young girls more, making it imperative for African governments to adopt measures designed to reduce poverty and financially support teenagers who drop out of school.
Dr. Landry Isague from UNICEF says that the problem of teenagers who are infected with HIV is global but more rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Teenagers should be aware of their reproductive rights and hence eliminate the risk of getting infected.”
He commended the Government of Rwanda’s effort in fighting against the epidemic and promised that other countries are going to follow this path as well.