AIDSRelief Rwanda Transitions to Local Government

By Kim Pozniak,

After six years of working in partnership with the Rwandan government, the AIDSRelief consortium led by Catholic Relief Services is transitioning its HIV care and treatment program to the Rwanda Ministry of Health in a move that marks the first such transition to a local government partner.

AIDSRelief—an international consortium funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—and the government of Rwanda have worked together to scale up quality HIV care for Rwandans since 2005; planning for the transition has been in the works for the past two years.

“In the short time that we’ve worked with the Ministry of Health, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of personal commitment to learn how to run the HIV treatment program.” says Leia Isanhart Balima, chief of party for AIDSRelief Rwanda. The government has really been committed to seeing the process through and to work through the challenges. It’s neat to be able to let go and say that we’ve put in place the basic building blocks.”

AIDSRelief started programs in Rwanda six years ago with the intention of someday transitioning them to a local entity. The Rwanda Ministry of Health now becomes the direct recipient of PEPFAR funds and will maintain existing treatment sites as part of the national health system. The transition will be marked by an official event on Friday, Nov. 18 in the country’s capital, Kigali.

“The health centers, as well as hospitals that supervise them, have been prepared [for the transition] in a number of ways,” says Isanhart Balima. The AIDSRelief consortium worked with the Ministry of Health and individual health centers to make sure they had the necessary clinical skills, as well as data processing mechanisms and financial management skills.

“You also have to ensure that basic elements are in place so that those sites that are going to transition have a solid power source, for example,” Isanhart Balima explains. Basic provisions like electricity had to be put in place. “Sometimes broken solar panels needed to be replaced and we had to make sure facilities had generators until they’re put on national power supply.”

Since 2004, AIDSRelief has provided HIV care and treatment to more than 600,000 people in ten countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

AIDSRelief Rwanda was implemented by a three-member consortium led by Catholic Relief Services working in partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute for Human Virology and Futures Group International. The program works collaboratively with the Rwandan government, particularly with the Institute of HIV/AIDS and Disease Prevention & Control, to support the national goals and objectives for the country’s HIV care and treatment program.

Kim Pozniak is CRS’ communication officer for Africa. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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