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HIV’s prevalence in young people is alarming! What can be done?

HIV is a dangerous epidemic that almost everyone fears. But the rate at which it is increasing in young people day by day is alarming.

According to data from last year, the world has 38.4 million people infected with AIDS, including 36.7 million adults and 1.7 million children under the age of 15. Women and girls account for 54% of these.

According to Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) statistics, there are currently 230,000 people in Rwanda who are infected with HIV at a rate of 3%. 94% are taking antiretroviral drugs, leaving 6% without treatment.

According to RBC’s Deputy Director General, Noella Bigirimana, the most concerning aspect in Rwanda is that the majority of infected people are young people aged 15 to 24, the majority of whom are HIV positive but are unaware of it.

Dr Eric Remera, the RBC’s senior biostatistician specializing in HIV programming, claims that the figures they have show that there are 5,000 new HIV infections in Rwanda each year.

“The new infections today show us that every year in Rwanda, five thousand people get infected,” he explained. “And 33% of those 5,000 are young people, amounting to at least 1500 people.”

He went on to say that new HIV/AIDS infections appear to be common among young people, particularly girls.

“In other words, there are twice as many girls as boys among those 1500; the boys are about 500 and the girls are about 1000,” he explained.

What is causing new infections in young people?

Some of the young people we spoke with stated that one of the reasons HIV/AIDS is becoming more prevalent among them is that some of them do not get tested and do not even use condoms.

“Many people get AIDS from adults, especially girls, and then they infect boys of the same age,” said Nizeyimana Emmanuel of Huye District. Furthermore, he said that very few young people test [HIV] because everyone, even if they engage in sexual intercourse, they believe they will not become infected, causing AIDS to spread.

According to a young woman who works as a commercial sex worker in Huye District, Mbazi Sector, many of her customers offer to pay a lot of money to avoid using condoms.

She stated, “Many of our clients dislike condoms and will pay a premium price to avoid using protection. I let that happen because I also need money, and I just get a pill after words [the morning after pill].”

Mukangenzi Clementine, who usually deals with women who work as commercial sex workers in Huye District, believes that many young people in the city are infected with HIV/AIDS due to their blind trust in their partners and ignorance.

She stated, “Let me give you an example of students at the university who meet in bars and go home together without using a condom even though they have never met before. There are also those who claim that HIV is only for the elderly.”

Early on young people are not educated enough on the matter

Many people want to know why there is such a high prevalence of HIV in young people. Some argue that this is also due to parents’ lack of time to educate their children about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it.

Nzeyumuremyi Augustin, who lives in Nyamagabe District’s Gasaka Sector, stated that “many parents nowadays are so busy providing for their families that they don’t have time for their children.”

“Because young people spend so much time with their teachers, I believe they should place an emphasis on educating them on the subject.” As parents, I believe we should contribute to those efforts and educate our children.”


One common misconception is that if a person is circumcised, they are immune to HIV/AIDS. This was also stated by one of the students we spoke with at one of the Rwamagana universities. He claimed that because he is circumcised, he is immune to HIV.

According to Dr. Eric Remera, circumcised men are 60% less likely to contract the virus, but the best way to avoid it is to use a condom every time he has sex with a woman or girl.

Dr. Remera emphasized that circumcision does not eliminate the possibility of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases, urging people to learn about the benefits of condoms in order to avoid them.

“I don’t like condoms because they are difficult to use, and I feel uncomfortable,” said another young man from Huye District. To avoid becoming infected, “I always perform tests to ensure that no one is infected.”

Some people believe that before having sex with a woman, they use the Rapid HIV Test. This is a tool available at the pharmacy that allows a person to self-diagnose HIV infection without having to visit a doctor.

Dr Remera advised people who believe “they would rather get HIV than get pregnant” to protect their lives and health by abstaining or using condoms every time they have a sexual encounter.

Currently, the Ministry of Health has launched a three-month campaign to reach out to young people by teaching them about AIDS and related issues such as knowing their current situation and understanding that an infected person can receive medicine in many hospitals in Rwanda and that if a person takes the medicine properly, they cannot infect others.

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