Dr. Susan Allen from Atlanta, USA who was heading the research offered HIV test to their husbands. She discovered that 10% of couples were HIV-discordant. This is a situation whereby one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV negative.
“When one partner in a couple is HIV positive, the level of transmission of the virus to his sexual partner is high because they are in regular sexual relationship “, said Dr Etienne Karita.
So far 40000 couples have been tested between 2003 and 2008 at San Francisco project.
According to him, majority of new infections in Rwanda occur in stable sexual relationships. He told me that contrary to what many people believe, the rate of HIV infection is high among couples instead of among non-married who have sex once in a while.
The research found two factors why couple don`t use condoms. One is that sometimes the couple want a baby or can be under alcohol influence.
The project started sensitizing couples to take HIV test together in order to decrease the rate of infection among HIV-discordant couples.
Dr Karita said that In 2003 San Francisco project launched a campaign to encourage couples to take HIV/AIDS together and we were fortunate to host the president of the republic that day and most ministers were present.
Nationwide the number of discordant couples is estimated at 2 % percent according to a 2010 national survey.
Rwanda is now among few countries in the world where couples take HIV test together. For example 90% of pregnant women in Rwanda take HIV/AIDS test with their husbands, said Dr Karita.
He said that MINISANTE ( Ministry of health) has put much effort in sensitizing the people to get HIV tests.
He gave an example whereby women who are now pregnant have to take a HIV test with their husbands. This informs them about their situation and urge them to take necessary measures.
Dr. Karita Etienne reiterated that San Francisco project is now conducting a research to find out how couples can avoid infecting each other in case one partner is HIV positive.
He explained that viruses are characterized by genetic variability.
In the body of every individual, the virus has its unique characteristic. “We have found out that when a person is to infect another, it is only one virus that goes and infects a person”, said the medical doctor.
“We want to find out why only one virus among many in the body is the one that infects”, said the medical doctor. In addition to that, we need to understand the difference between the virus that infect and others that don`t.
Our final aim is to look for a vaccine to neutralize that virus that infect and we are working on it with our partners. “This is one of the contributions that San Francisco project has brought to Rwanda medical science”.