Kayonza, April 30: Family conflict, sexually explicit music videos, drugs, unemployment and school dropout cases are some of the factors highlighted to be driving more HIV cases in Rwanda.
This was highlighted during an HIV awareness campaign organised by Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) in different corners of the country, currently in the Eastern province.
As the outreach continued in Gatsibo district in Teachers and Training Center in Kabarore (TTC Kabarore), Marceline Mukamana, the Vice Mayor of Gatsibo District in charge of Social Affairs, has pointed out the connection between family conflict and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young people in the district.
Gatsibo district has recorded 892 teenage pregnancies between July and December 2022, with most cases occurring among those aged between 14 and 19 years.
According to Mukamana, the issue is connected to family conflict, which causes parents to fail in their responsibility of providing guidance and basic formal education to their children, especially girls, making them vulnerable to men’s temptations and the risk of contracting HIV.
“It is the responsibility of parents to take care of their children. While we can all come together to raise awareness, the center of this conversation shoulbe the family and particularly, the parents,” Mukamana emphasised.
She went on to stress the importance of direct awareness campaigns targeted at young people, declaring that as Gatsibo District grapples with this issue, it is clear that concerted efforts from all stakeholders are necessary to address the root causes.
Mukamana further urged the students at the school to refrain from engaging in sexual activities and other temptations that could ruin their future.
‘Explicit music videos increase the risk of unprotected sex among youth’
Jean Damascene Habimana, a teacher at TTC Kabarore and the president of the Anti-AIDS Club at the school, expressed concern about sexually explicit music videos that are accessible to young people in Rwanda. He believes that such videos can tempt young people into engaging in unprotected sexual activities, which can increase their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
While the school manages to moderate the content, Habimana has called on TV stations to play their part in prohibiting music videos that promote sexual activity, as young people tend to follow them.
In the Anti-AIDS club, Habimana and his team use conversations to educate students about the disease, encouraging them to practice abstinence and use condoms when necessary. However, he emphasised that more time is needed for these conversations, as they currently only take place on Saturdays, and stressed the importance of continuous collaboration between all Rwandans in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“With concerted efforts from both schools and TV stations, it is possible to limit the exposure of young people to sexually explicit content and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Rwanda,” he said.
During a separate HIV awareness campaign held at Umutara Polytechnic Gakoni on April 25, Melon Mbabazi, a student at the institution, also spoke out about the negative impact of songs with sexually explicit content on young people.
Mbabazi believes that spending time watching such content can tempt young people to engage in sexual activities, which increases their risk of contracting HIV.
Mbabazi called for moderation of songs dedicated to youth and encouraged artistes to release more songs that promote positive behaviour instead of negative.
She also noted that while students at school may abstain from sexual activities, they may face temptations during holidays when they go out to meet people.
According to Mbabazi, poverty and family conflict can exacerbate the problem, as young girls may seek out men who can provide for their basic needs, putting them at risk of exploitation and unprotected sex.
Dr Mireille Joyce Umurerwa, Senior Officer in charge of Other HIV Prevention Methods at RBC, emphasised the importance of parental and school censorship to protect children from exposure to sexually explicit content that can lead to unprotected sex.
She urged parents and educators to moderate the content their children watch to prevent them from being lured into engaging in risky sexual behaviour.
Umurerwa also highlighted the various HIV prevention methods available in Rwanda, including the availability of condoms across the country and voluntary circumcision services at every health centre. However, she noted that men over remain a challenge in terms of accessing these services and stressed the need for increased awareness.
According to Demographic and Health Survey 2020, 56 per cent of males have attended voluntary medical male circumcision, while HIV prevalence among males who have sex with males (MSM) is 6.5 per cent.