Burundi – Service Yezu Mwiza

Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM)

Motto: “We are a people who want to live.”

In 2010, more than 10,000 people benefited from one or more of the services offered by the holistic AIDS programme run by the Jesuits of Rwanda-Burundi. Based in Bujumbura, the Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM), reaches inaccessible rural parishes in the hills around the capital, offering holistic care to people with HIV and their families as well as orphans and vulnerable children who benefit from educational and other support. Services offered by SYM include: treatment for opportunistic infections; nutritional support and consultations; counselling; support groups, help with adherence; home visits; and income-generating activities.

Since its inception in 2008, SYM has been quick to take significant steps forward. In April 2009, SYM was declared as qualified to be a centre for the provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people with HIV/AIDS. Being an ART centre also necessitated an inpatient clinic, and the Martin Royackers Clinic was constructed and inaugurated in June 2010. It is named after Fr Martin Royackers SJ, a Canadian Jesuit who was gunned down in 2001 at the door of his parish of St Theresa’s in Annotto Bay, Jamaica – his murder was never solved. His mother and sister travelled to Burundi for the inauguration ceremony.

“We give thanks to God for this success, which will allow those we serve – most of whom are very poor – to save the money they would have spent on transport to collect their medication from other centres and hospitals in or around the town, says Fr Désiré Yamuremye SJ, SYM Director. “Given our strategy to bring services to the people by going to parishes or nearby health centres, our doctors and nurses can now distribute ARVs to those who need them. This has always been our target and our beneficiaries are very happy.”

Another range of services is offered in the sphere of prevention, with voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and awareness-raising in parishes. In particular, SYM emphasises the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the virus, one of the main causes of infant mortality in Burundi.

SYM also advocates for the rights of people with HIV, calling for an end to shortfalls in stocks of essential medicines and for an end to AIDS-related stigma.

SYM Director: Fr Védaste Nkeshimana SJ

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