It all started as a mild fever for Alinda (not real name), a resident of Shyogwe sector, Muhanga district . Originally, she brushed it off by swallowing painkillers thinking it would go away .It didn’t, but instead worsened. It wasn’t long before she started getting funny itchings too, and they multiplied with every scratch, and overtime grew into blisters. This was followed with non-stop stomach-ache and diarrhea ,over time she lost weight and became considerably weak. “I ended up with a ghostly appearance, it was astonishing how I quickly lost my good looks, and many could no longer recognize me.” Alinda laments.
She was aware of the existence of HIV, but refused to entertain the possibility that she had it. “I went to health centres several times, but insisted they test for other ailments except HIV/AIDS.” One time, she got bedridden for four consecutive days, and was driven by her husband to hospital almost in coma. This is when she reluctantly gave in to the much dreaded test. But the doctor insisted that it had to be carried out on both of them (on her husband too).And they obliged.
“I was shocked to find that I was positive, and my husband was negative. I felt broken but my husband was there for me.” After weeks of treatment on ARV’S and counseling, she was strong and feeling good about herself. “Before discharging me, the doctor mentioned that we had to use condoms during every sexual inter-course, so as to avoid spreading.” They went to a near-by retail shop shortly after leaving the hospital, and bought Prudence Condom packs, each at Rwf100.
“With ARV’s I am assured of a long life at least, and my husband and I can still enjoy marriage, since his safety is guaranteed with consistent condom use.” Alinda points out; that once in a while they get these condoms (Prudence) from the Ministry of Health through community based health workers free of charge.
“I prefer Prudence because it’s affordable and readily available in retail shops,” she says. According to Bonaventure Rutagengwa, an SFH Regular Programme Coordinator for the Southern Province, they are involved in various anti-Aids sensitization Programmes through platforms like Mobile Cinema services and Inter Personal Communications (door to door counseling services by field officers).
He adds that in May this year; over 45 community Health workers in Muhanga district alone were equipped with skills related to HIV prevention and treatment. The other similar product marketed is Plaisir. It can be found in retail shops at Rwf300 only. “Some residents still shy away from buying condoms, so the biggest challenge we are faced with is that of creating behaviourial change,” he notes.