This past week, I had the privilege of traveling to Africa with (RED) co-founder Bono and other (RED) champions to witness first-hand the impact of programs we support that enable people to access greater health and prosperity.
In particular, it was a proud moment for (RED) to see the hugely impressive AIDS programs in Rwanda, which benefit directly from the funds that our partners have generated. Rwanda was (RED)’s first grantee country in 2006 and has since received $79 million from (RED), which accounts for 11.6% of the Global Fund’s entire AIDS grant to the country.
Rwanda’s miraculous post genocide progress, on so many levels, is exemplified by its tackling of AIDS. The country has a relatively low prevalence rate of 2.8% and is close to virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV. We visited the main teaching hospital (CHUK) in Kigali, a second visit for Bono who witnessed alongside Nurse Florence (he christened her the ‘real Florence Nightingale’ in 2006) the transformation of the pediatric ward. In 2006, each single bed held 3 children with their mothers perched on the sides trying to care for them. This time, every child received care in his or her very own bed. It was incredible to hear Florence describe the impact that Global Fund money has had in changing this dynamic – not just expanding access to treatment, but also providing education and support for the healthcare providers
In the afternoon we went to the (RED)-supported Kimisagara Youth Center, which not only provides young people with free testing and counselling services, but also houses a training center for peer education, enabling a team of youth leaders to educate their peers on sexual reproductive health. Cutting through taboos of speaking about sex, they were honest, open, humorous and absolutely engaging. One of the most impressive things about Rwanda is its commitment to community programs like this – one of the key drivers for its success in fighting AIDS. This is also evident in rural areas with volunteer community health workers making monthly visits to their HIV positive clients, counselling them on the importance of adherence to the lifesaving drugs. We visited the home of Godlieve and felt her fear that without adequate funding, her life saving medication may go away.
Having seen these programs first hand just a few days ago, I’m reminded of how critical our mission is, and how time is of the absolute essence when lives are on the line. As the clock ticks down to the next Global Fund Replenishment – which will call on world leaders, foundations, and of course, the private sector, to continue to fund the fight for the next three years – (RED) will remain laser focused on generating cash and consciousness to help end AIDS.
As ever, thank you for your continued support.
by Deborah Dugan, CEO of (RED)