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Rise Africa! We Have No Time to Lose
By H.E. First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame

Today, we have come a long way since the first case of HIV was discovered. We have made great advancements since the time of desperation, when it seemed as though an epidemic would destroy our families, our countries, and our continent. This progress has not been made through coincidence or chance. Rather, it has required great solidarity among global partners and a deep commitment to refuse to let future generations share the same fate of too many of our friends, parents, brothers and sisters.

Together, as global partners, we have now begun the defeat of the epidemic. As a country, Rwanda has worked tirelessly to protect, care and advocate for children, mothers, and families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Our collective efforts have helped us halve new HIV infections, and increase the trend in testing among young women by 6 fold - from about 10 percent in 2005 to almost 60 percent in 2010. Through community engagement and ownership, we have trained 45,000 Community Health Workers nationwide (3 per village) who sensitize and teach the community about HIV prevention, testing and adherence to treatment.

In a broader sense, the community health workers also raise awareness about nutrition, maternal and childcare, and provide general advice on health issues. They also ensure a continuum of interventions from the health facility to the community and help improve access to services for underserved populations. A beautiful part of this progress we are making in the fight against AIDS in Africa is that it is a catalyst to boost entire health systems on our continent.

Defeating AIDS once and for all may seem like a daunting task, some have even considered it impossible, but this dream can become a reality more so today than ever if we continue to have the right kind of leadership and committed partners. We are fortunate to have both: deliberate leaders dedicated to doing all they can to improve the lives of citizens and development partners like the Global Fund who support our fight against AIDS, TB and malaria with crucial resources while helping us bolster our national health systems.

Next week, world leaders will gather in Washington D.C. to launch funding commitments for the next three years towards defeating AIDS, TB, and malaria through the Global Fund. The remarkable progress we’ve made in Africa in the fight against the three diseases would never have been possible without the global solidarity demonstrated through strong international support for the Global Fund, which I hope will continue in the years to come. But we must recognize that creating a sustainable healthy future for our continent is ultimately in our own hands and we must assume shared responsibility by growing our economies and increasing our domestic health resources.

From the ashes of our troubled past, we are committed as Rwandans and Africans to rise as the generation that will be remembered for defeating the diseases that once threatened our collective existence. Africa should be ready! The worst is behind us. Now we know how to prevent, how to treat, how to care, and how to look ahead. We are ready for the next step, and hope the world will join us.

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