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Last week, the Rwandan Adolescent Reproductive Health Initiative honored 78 student artists who are using plays, visual art, poetry, and music to encourage their peers to practice safer sex, use condoms, and seek sexual and reproductive health care to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. A recent event honoring the young artists brought together students from 13 schools with the support of IntraHealth International and the Imbuto Foundation.
The student art project is just one example of the Rwandan Adolescent Reproductive Health Initiative’s groundbreaking work to creatively reach young people with essential reproductive health information. The Initiative has spearheaded one of the first models in the country for providing young people with gender‐appropriate, youth‐friendly health services and information in schools. This model, which has been successfully piloted in two districts, was developed in collaboration with local health and education professionals and community leaders. The critical work aims to change the reality that only about half of Rwandans aged 15 to 24 know the basic information about HIV prevention and transmission that they need to protect themselves, making them particularly vulnerable to infection, according to the latest UNAIDS estimates.
Dr. Mathias Harebamungu, state minister for primary and secondary education, who spoke at the event, recognized the importance of this work and urged that the project be extended nationally. The Rwandan Adolescent Reproductive Health Initiative is funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The Imbuto Foundation, established by Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame, collaborates with IntraHealth on the project, and advocates for health, education, and economic empowerment—including the empowerment of young Rwandans.