Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Rwandan Genocide Survivors in Need of HIV Treatment

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Rwandan Genocide Survivors in Need of HIV Treatment

Article excerpt

Thousands of women who were sexually assaulted and infected with HIV during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda do not have access to treatment, said the Survivors' Fund (SURF), a UK-based non-profit organization which launched a campaign on 20 April calling for the provision of affordable antiretroviral treatment for women infected with HIV during the conflict which claimed at least 800 000 lives.

"These women were left impoverished after their husbands, fathers and brothers were murdered," said Mary Kayetisi Bluitt, Director of SURF, a non-profit group based in London, aiming to address the needs of women and children who survived the Rwandan massacre. "They are still suffering from trauma and have few resources, and only a handful can afford the antiretroviral drugs that could improve and prolong their lives," said Bluitt, who lost 50 members of her family during the massacres.

"It [the genocide] is still claiming victims who contracted HIV as a result of sexual violence," said Colette Delhot, Regional Adviser for Gender and Women's Health at WHO's Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo. No one knows precisely how many women became infected during the assault, which was marked by a rash of gang rapes.

Only one organization, the Rwandan Association of Genocide Widows (AVEGA-AGAHOZO), based in the Remera area of Kigala, has published survey results. The non-profit group, which consists of 25 000 widows, estimates two-thirds of its members are now HIV-positive as a result of being raped during the 1994 conflict. "There is little doubt the numbers are actually higher, however, because many women hesitate to come forward. …

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