by Stefan Lechner/Caritas Communicator of Caritas Austria
Here is an interview with Dr. Kanani Prince Bosco, medical doctor in charge of the health department as a national medical coordinator for Caritas Rwanda.
How is the situation of AIDS-orphans in Rwanda?
HIV does not choose someone specific, HIV affects everyone. In Rwanda, there are not only a lot of orphans because of AIDS, there are also a lot of orphans from the 1994 genocide. We had war and some people even tried to infect many others by force.
What can you do for those children?
In our programmes, orphans get care and support. We are trying to pay scholarships for orphans and give them psychosocial support.
A special programme of Caritas Rwanda is called “Family Houses”. We welcome orphans who are vulnerable in this programme and we look for someone who has the will to be a mother to them. Depending on funding, we then might rent a house. The ‘mother’ stays there with those children and we try to provide everything they need. We already have seen some of those children finishing school and then move out.
It is our goal, that after helping those orphans, they start their lives outside the Family Houses. It is important to find their own families, if they still have one, or other families who are willing to welcome them. This is always a better choice. It is also important to prepare the community to welcome them. All of this is a big challenge.
How do you work with pregnant women with HIV?
We try to get medicine that prevents that HIV being passed to the child. Women have to come to see us with their husbands, so that all of them understand the issue. And we want to make sure the man helps the woman. He also has to come to health centre. This is important because of the existing stigma. The men also need to be tested and to know their status.
Where do people get therapy?
I do have to mention that Caritas Ruanda has about 112 health facilities in Rwanda.
After the government it is Caritas that has most health facilities in the country. Caritas provides for around 30% of them.
What relation is there in between HIV and AIDS and poverty?
The relation between AIDS and poverty is a big challenge indeed. When we are trying to talk to people who work as sex workers, they tell us “I don’t have anything. I have to sell sex as a profession in order to get money and in order to live.”
One woman told me: “Some men are saying, if you do it without condom you get more money. And the money I need for feeding my children.” In the end, this woman might get AIDS too.
On the other side, people living with HIV use the little money they have in order to get medicine, also for other infection diseases that you might get when you have AIDS. And then all their money is gone. So people get poor because of going to the doctor, doing some exams, doing some tests, buying medicines.
So the relation between poverty and HIV and AIDS is a terrible, vicious circle. We are trying to help the people to organise or get some income-generating activities.
And we have seen some really positive impact. Some people have left sex work as a profession. And they now try to change other people’s behaviour.
What do you think is crucial for your work?
We have to promote a local response. This is very important. You can have good programmes, but what we have to do is to put people living with the disease in a position for them to lead, for example the designing of processes and programmes.
We should let them act and stimulate local response. We should not come as an expert, but let them be expert. They really know what is about. Let them do it and not the ones that are bringing money. Like this we can really fight
What do you expect of the international Aids conference in Vienna?
My expectation is to get information and exchange good practices. See good programmes, that have been successful. We all have something to learn. We all have something to share. It’s a good opportunity to learn and share.