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In Rwanda, music activities and support groups for young people living with HIV have been closed for ten months. We know that when it becomes possible to meet again, support will be more necessary than ever. Meanwhile, we need to sustain the local team.

Since 2012 we have worked in partnership with WE-ACTx for Hope in Kigali, Rwanda, a clinical organisation providing medical and psychosocial care to people living with HIV and their families. Together, our program Rwanda Youth Music has embedded music into those services, making musical support a fundamental part of young people’s clinical care.

When children arrive at the clinic for check-ups or to receive their medication, there is a Community Music Leader running ‘drop-in’ music activities. At support groups for teenagers there are musical instrument and dance sessions for everyone. In young patients’ own communities there are music groups for them to attend.

Throughout lockdown, WE-ACTx for Hope has continued to provide vital care, medication, and counselling. The amazing team of nurses, doctors, pharmacists and counsellors have adapted to carry on delivering top class services. But for the past 10 months, all group support services have been on hold, in line with protocols to suppress the spread of COVID-19. Musical activities at the clinic have been on pause, while public health priorities took precedent.

During those difficult months, we worked to preserve the infrastructure of Rwanda Youth Music, supporting the people and the venues that make the program work. This meant contributing nutritional support during the hardest periods, helping participants to purchase internet access in order to stay in contact, facilitating online music classes, assisting with the rent of a music school as it struggles without students or income, as well as maintaining all the salaries and fees on which families rely.

Restrictions are lifting in Rwanda, and since last month the team of Community Music Leaders are able to meet and play together in small groups, with precautions still in place. But many challenges remain.

Rwanda Youth Music needs support in order to be there in 2021 providing access to culture for health. We know that when it is possible for support groups to meet again, they will be more needed than ever.

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