Rwanda has just hosted a four-day international conference in the capital Kigali on improving services for HIV / AIDS patients.  More than two thousand delegates attended the meeting, which was organized by President Bush?s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  Other participants in Kigali AIDS activities included the agency UNAIDS, the World Bank, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Reporter Linord Moudou covered the meetings for Voice of America Television and has just returned from Kigali.  She describes how much progress she has seen made against AIDS in Rwanda itself.

?I think that Rwanda is an example of progress.  First of all, in terms of the awareness campaign that has been ongoing, where people, youth and older, have been very aware of the danger of this disease and the importance of prevention.  Also, care has been provided.  I?ve seen some clinics that were put together by donors, and also, there has been an improvement as far as access to treatment and also prevention measures,? she notes.

Having visited several Rwandan health facilities, reporter Moudou says the number of care centers has risen in the country and improved access to antiretroviral drugs has started to prolong life, especially for women and children who become susceptible to the illness.  She warns, however, that a lot more needs to be done to stop the disease from spreading.

?In a country like Rwanda, one thing is sure.  The pandemic is not stopping.  There are still new infections.  There are still more people that need treatment.  And for one person who is receiving treatment, there are nine new infections.  Everybody acknowledges the fact that we need to scale up treatment, and we need to scale up even prevention measures as well,? she says.

One of the positive developments to come out of the Kigali meeting was the news that rates of infection had dropped slightly in East and West Africa.  But that the highest number of cases are still found in Southern African countries.  Moudou says the problem is immense and the power to reduce it rests with the region?s political leadership.

?Today we have to acknowledge that in Southern Africa a lot more needs to be done.  At least I hope a government official will not come and deny that HIV is really decimating population.  The leadership really has a lot to do with it.  But we really have to be able to rely on our governments to really step into this campaign to help diminish the HIV/AIDS pandemic,? she says.

Last month, when President Bush asked Congress for a 30-billion-dollar request to fight the global AIDS pandemic, he announced that First Lady Laura Bush would visit AIDS-related projects in four African countries.  Journalist Linord Moudou says AIDS conference participants in Rwanda are eagerly awaiting the First Lady?s arrival this month.

?Her involvement in this fight against HIV/AIDS has been proven to really have an impact.  I think that people are really looking forward to it.  I spoke to a representative from Zambia who is very, very enthusiastic about this visit.  People are excited in Rwanda, and I think her trip will definitely have a positive impact,? notes Moudou.