World AIDS Day and Tour du Rwanda Concert: Chargé d’Affaires Rich Michaels Remarks

Muraho!  Amakuru?? Abajeunes mumeze fresh?? How is everyone feeling tonight?  Are you excited to see some more great performances?  A big thanks to all our partners for being here since early this morning to provide you free health services and information.  How many of you have visited the various health booths here today?  Let’s give our valuable partners a round of applause.

It is a pleasure to be here in celebration of the Amagare (Tour du Rwanda) and in advance of World AIDS Day on December 1st.  Did you know that we have the ability to wipe out AIDS in Rwanda?  Well, we do.  Reaching this goal, however, is going to take even greater leadership and sharper focus to ensure every  money invested in the fight against HIV reaches the largest number of those in need.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – or PEPFAR – is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease.  In Rwanda, PEPFAR has invested more than $1 billion since 2004.  That is part of the more than $70 billion the United States has invested globally through PEPFAR over the past 14 years to fight this horrible disease.

We are proud to partner with the Government of Rwanda, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, people living with HIV, and many others in this work.  Together, our efforts have put Rwanda in the best position to end HIV.

We have made great gains for some, but not all.  We have not made nearly as much progress in ensuring zero discrimination and quality HIV treatment and prevention services for all.  When one community member is stigmatized, the health and dignity of everyone in that community are threatened, and the HIV epidemic will not be controlled.

The greatest action we need right now is to empower adolescent girls and young women to protect their health.  Last year, 390,000 adolescent girls and young women from around the world were infected with HIV — that’s more than 1,000 every day.  These girls account for 75% of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

Each and every one of you here today has the power to help end the HIV epidemic. Abajeunes sibyo??? As many of you know, HIV in Rwanda is mainly spread through sexual contact, and having more than one sexual partner has been shown to be the greatest risk factor of becoming infected with HIV.

  • I am encouraging every person who has had more than one sexual partner to get tested for HIV.
  • We now know that if you are HIV-positive and you start and stay on treatment, you can live a healthy and full life.
  • But everyone, HIV-positive and HIV-negative, should practice safe sex by using a condom correctly each and every time you engage in sexual relations.
  • We are giving out free condoms today so please take some home with you.
  • You can also get free condoms at your local health clinic or condom kiosks in Nyamirambo, Remera, Magerwa, and Giporoso. Or you can buy low-cost Prudence condoms at shops or condom kiosks all over the country.

Achieving an AIDS-free generation in Rwanda is possible, but it will not happen automatically or easily. We must come together to make it a reality.  Abajeunes turi kumwe???

Murakoze Cyane!  Enjoy Umuziki and stay safe.