Article abstract

Introduction: following the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is high. In a period of seven days every year in April, Rwandans gather to mourn the victims of the genocide. During this commemoration period, survivors living with chronic PTSD experience PTSD acute exacerbations (PAE). We assessed factors associated with severe PAE during the annual commemoration period of the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda.


Methods: we carried out a retrospective cross-sectional study that included people who had PAE during the commemoration week in April 2011 across Huye District in Rwanda. Our outcome measure was PAE categorized into three levels: < 15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, and > 30 minutes. Ordinal logistic regression analyses were performed to identify factors associated with severe PAE.


Results: we enrolled 383 people with PAE, of whom 71.8% were female and 53.5% were aged 20-45 years. All participants reported history of PAE, of which 59.8% had experienced more than two PAE during the previous commemoration periods. 33.2% had PAE that lasted > 30 minutes. History of PAE (> twice) (OR = 1.86; 95% CI = 1.27-2.75) and having lost a partner in genocide (OR = 2.19; 95% CI = 1.01-4.81) were associated with severe PAE, after adjusting for sex and age.


Conclusion: our findings suggest that PAE is frequent during the commemoration periods. People who reported having more prior PAE and being widow (er) were more likely to have severe PAE. While history of PAE and bereavement status are non-modifiable factors, our findings could help identify and target these people who are at risk for severe PAE.