Dozens of Rwandan nationals living with HIV/AIDS have missed treatment following the closure of the Uganda-Rwanda border.
Early this year in February, Rwandan authorities closed the border with Uganda at Katuna – with heavy trucks diverted to Mirama hills in Ntungamo district. Soon after Rwanda blocked its citizens from crossing into Uganda on claims that they couldn’t guarantee their safety while they are in Uganda. Rwanda accuses Uganda of harbouring and facilitating rebels plotting against President Paul Kagame’s government.
Before the border closure, Rwandan nationals often crossed to Uganda to seek treatment from the border districts of Isingiro, Ntungamo, Rukiga, Rubanda, Kabale and Kisoro. Some of the Rwandans were receiving treatment in Ugandan facilities which include Kamuganguzi, Maziba and Rubaare health center IVs.
At Rubaare health centre IV, some 1,710 patients were receiving Anti-retroviral treatment (ART) care at the beginning of the year. However, 62 have since missed treatment. Efforts to follow them indicate that they are Rwandan nationals who are currently unable to cross into Uganda for treatment.
Dr Ambrose Okello, the in-charge of Rubaare health centre says that other 10 patients have been on and off treatment. Dr Okello explains that missing out on treatment for HIV positive patients is dangerous since it leads to the deterioration of their health.
Beatrice Chemisto the deputy district health officer for Ntungamo calls on those who could be having relatives who have missed treatment to devise means of helping them resume treatment.
Sonia Mwiza, whose relatives have been affected, says that her sister who used to receive drugs from Rubaare health centre IV had gone home at the time when the border was closed.
“We who are HIV positive, we are now finding it hard, some of us used to get drugs from Kabale hospital and Rubaare health centre. Now it is challenging because the border is closed, were request that the border be opened so that we can continue accessing the drugs.” she said.
She says that some of her friends used to sneak into Uganda to receive drugs, but her sister was arrested on two occasions while attempting to leave Rwanda for treatment. She adds that the sister had not enrolled for health insurance scheme back home.
Esperance Nyiraneza, who has missed treatment, says that those who are not enrolled in the health insurance back in their home country are facing difficult times and cannot even speak out about their HIV status.
Kabale district health educator Alfred Besigensi does not give a specific number of those that have missed treatment. He however, says that it would be better for the patients to henceforth enroll for treatment in health facilities in Rwanda.