The USAID PEPFAR-funded Adolescents and Children HIV Incidence Reduction, Empowerment and Virus Elimination (ACHIEVE) project in Rwanda hosted a “Learning and Experience Sharing” event on September 28, 2022 that brought representatives from the central and local level to celebrate the achievements of the project from 2020 through 2022. The event provided an opportunity for the participants to learn from one another about the impact of ACHIEVE’s HIV prevention and response services for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) program targeting adolescent girls and young women (AGYW). Among the guests were the Permanent Secretary in the Rwanda Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), Mireille Batamuliza; the Director of HIV Prevention Unit of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr. Basile Ikuzo; USAID Rwanda Health Office Director, Robin Martz; USAID Rwanda Community Health and Empowerment Services Team Leader, Alphonse Nkusi; and representatives from health facilities and ACHIEVE Rwanda implementing partners, the Rwanda Network of People Living with HIV (commonly known as RRP+), DUHaranira AMajyambere y’ICyaro (DUHAMIC ADRI), Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE), François Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Rwanda, and Caritas Rwanda. The meeting was also attended by ACHIEVE staff and a host of community-based volunteers, and the OVC, caregivers, and AGYW we serve.
The event highlighted that ACHIEVE has reached 67,219 OVC, their caregivers, and AGYW in Kicukiro, Nyarugenge, Kayonza, and Huye districts, through the support of 1,522 community volunteers. HIV testing services including HIV risk assessments were provided for 53,806 OVC and AGYW. ACHIEVE provided mentorship to 31,492 AGYW for social asset building through 191 mentors across 153 safe spaces in Kicukiro and Nyarugenge to reduce HIV and vulnerability to sexual violence. Service delivery under ACHIEVE was led by two local implementing partners, YWCA and DUHAMIC-ADRI.
“ACHIEVE has helped orphans and vulnerable children, and that aligns with one of our responsibilities of protecting a child from any violence.”
During the event, Permanent Secretary in the MIGEPROF, Mireille Batamuliza noted that ACHIEVE’s approach has aligned with MIGEPROF’s “ambitions to build the family especially drawing attention to female and male adolescents including HIV/AIDS positive ones and teen mothers.” According to her, “The project came as a solution to many problems”. Further, she noted that the project built a family from the community level by taking care of girls and boys, including those who are HIV positive, and reducing their vulnerability. The project’s interventions, she continued, also helped youth, including teen mothers, to get information on how they could behave in their adolescence – an impact that can be seen in their families. “ACHIEVE has helped orphans and vulnerable children, and that aligns with one of our responsibilities of protecting a child from any violence,” said Permanent Secretary Batamuliza. “That is something we are happy for because all the children that were helped have gained hope for tomorrow, are working, getting paid, and saving. Teen mothers are also hopeful that their children will live. We hope to see the impact even in their families.”
During the event, other attendees shared remarks and reflections on the two-year journey and achievements of the project, and the path forward for continuing to support implementing partners and the important work they do to provide and sustain DREAMS and OVC services at the community level.
Given that OVC and DREAMS services will be locally led in the future by the five partners (AEE, Caritas-Rwanda, DUHAMIC-ADRI, FXB Rwanda, and YWCA) that are implementing the USAID PEPFAR OVC and DREAMS Activity (ODA) named IGIRE (Kinyarwanda for Be Resilient), the event also featured a panel discussion on service delivery for both DREAMS and OVC interventions and the roles of various stakeholders, including DREAMS Ambassadors, health facilities, and local NGOs, in providing and sustaining OVC and DREAMS services. The discussions highlighted the expectations of implementing partners from the next phase that will focus on the capacity development, learning, and exchanges among OVC and DREAMS implementers in Rwanda.
The event provided an opportunity for AGYW participating in ACHIEVE’s DREAMS program to share how the program has impacted them. Safina, a former sex worker from Gitega Sector, Nyarugenge District, was one of the AGYW for whom ACHIEVE helped pave the way for a brighter future. During the event, Safina shared remarks on how ACHIEVE helped her turn her life around after being referred for HIV testing at a health facility. Safina talked about how she gained access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services through the project and was assigned a mentor who provided her with information and education about SRH and rights, gender-based violence (GBV), HIV prevention and financial education. She was also able to participate in training and mentorship sessions through a safe space in the district. After being educated and tested for HIV, Safina was able to educate two sex partners about HIV testing and voluntary medical male circumcision, resulting in them being referred to health facilities for these services.
“I learned much about GBV, life skills, testing for HIV on a regular basis, and family planning, which is allowing me to protect myself from being pregnant,” said Safina. “I was reminded of the good and the opportunities in life and the chance to start over again. I am no longer a female sex worker, and I am raising my daughter better than how I was raised.”
Speaking about key project accomplishments, Moise Mutabazi, the ACHIEVE Rwanda Project Director echoed that “the past two years have been a learning and life-changing experience, where the PEPFAR/USAID-funded ACHIEVE project in Rwanda reached 67,219 OVC, AGYW, and caregivers who are living, affected by, and vulnerable to HIV and violence, to achieve and sustain HIV epidemic control.” He added, “ACHIEVE’s support has included capacity development support for both local partners to prepare them to become USAID local prime implementers. A new five-year award made by USAID to DUHAMIC, and YWCA is a recognition of capacity and program improvements resulting from ACHIEVE’s support.”
"The past two years have been a learning and life-changing experience, where the PEPFAR/USAID-funded ACHIEVE project in Rwanda reached 67,219 OVC, AGYW, and caregivers who are living, affected by, and vulnerable to HIV and violence, to achieve and sustain HIV epidemic control.”
Over the next three years (2023-2025), ACHIEVE’s role is transitioning from direct service delivery to supporting five local civil society organizations with technical assistance and capacity development as they implement the USAID ODA/IGIRE programs as prime implementers.