More men are dying from Aids -related illnesses even though the infection rate is higher among women, a national survey shows, which health workers say has led them to shifting focus on men by sensitising them on the need to register for anti-retroviral therapy.
More men die because they avoid testing for HIV and hence are not on medication, according to the Rwanda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (RPHIA) survey.
The report shows that poor health-seeking behaviour, cultural beliefs and alcohol abuse are among the reasons contributing to the higher rate of death among men with HIV.
The RPHIA results further show that men's viral load suppression stands at 65.7 per cent compared with 79.1 per cent among women.
“Men have lower HIV testing rates, less contact with HIV clinical settings and less knowledge of HIV prevention than women,” said the director general of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana. “Women have higher rates of HIV, but they take medication so their viral load suppression is high.”
He said that explains why the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy in Rwanda has resulted in an increase of 25 years of the life expectancy between people living with HIV and reduced 78 per cent of Aids-related deaths.
“It is now the right time to focus on sensitising men because it has also been discovered that they are the ones causing the rising number of new HIV cases per year because the majority are not on treatment,” said Dr Nsanzimana.
In an interview with Rwanda Today, Jonson Mugabe who is HIV positive said that it took him more than five years to amass the courage to go for HIV testing.
“I had symptoms of HIV but I was afraid of testing,” said Mr Mugabe. “When I took my wife to the hospital to deliver our baby, she tested positive and the doctors asked me to take the test; my wife saved our lives now we are on HIV treatment and life is normal.”
HIV prevalence among Rwandans aged between 15 and 49 and 15 and 64 years reduced to 2.6 per cent and three per cent from 3.3 and 3.7 per cent respectively in the past six years, the survey shows.