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HEALTH-ETHIOPIA: HIV/AIDS Awareness On The Increase


ADDIS ABABA, Dec 1 (IPS) - Public awareness of HIV/AIDS is on the increase in Ethiopia. But so too are new infections.

Some three million Ethiopians are believed to be living with HIV, official sources say. Ethiopia has a population of about 60 million people. The AIDS scourge has also left more than 700,000 children orphaned.

As part of the intensified efforts to control the spread of the disease, some 1,500 health officials and religious groups recently met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa to lay strategy to arrest the spread of the disease.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), which used to take a very conservative approach to the campaign, has now taken an active role. The church has mobilised its members of the clergy to educate the laity about the serious dangers posed by HIV/AIDS.

Meetings are also taking place in regional capitals to create awareness. A soccer match was held in one of the southern regions where leaflets on safe sex were distributed to thousands of spectators.

As the world celebrated AIDS DAY, Dec 1, more and more people are beginning to take the disease with the seriousness it deserves.

Members of the Islamic faith are also participating in the campaign. Religious groups are being targeted because of the power and influence they wield over the society.

The first HIV case in Ethiopia was diagnosed in 1984, according to the Ministry of Health.

Currently, one in 13 adult Ethiopian is HIV-positive while one in six in the capital Addis Ababa is a carrier, says the Addis Ababa health bureau.

Of Addis Ababa's 2.4 million inhabitants, nearly 17 percent of all adults are infected. This figure is expected to increase to 20 percent by 2001.

Every day, nearly 100 adults in the city are infected, according to the health bureau. Of these, 99 percent get AIDS through sex.

The Addis Ababa conference aims "to redirect national and international policies and programmes to address the compelling and evolving implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic so that it does not further reverse human and social capital development in Ethiopia."

A number of recommendations made, include the strengthening of the capacity of the national research organisations operating in Ethiopia to work toward an intensified and expanded research programme into the virus, the epidemic and its impact on society.

About 53,000 persons have died of AIDs in Addis Ababa since 1986 and 554,000 are expected to die of the disease in the city within the next 15 years, according to the bureau.

The conference called on encouraging and strengthening international collaboration; establishing a strong HIV/AIDS prevention and control office; integrating AIDS orphans into the community; designing effective programmes to address adolescent and youth; and breaking the silence and encouraging open discussion on HIV/AIDS.

"We have shown that AIDS is not a health problem alone, but also a development and social issue," says Dr. Seyoum Ayehunie one of the conference organisers. "We have underlined how grave the problem is by citing figures and why the number of people infected by AIDS continues to grow rapidly," he says.

The on-going campaign seems to be reducing the stigma against AIDS. People living with HIV/AIDS are coming out in the open and expressing their viewpoints as to how the disease could be controlled.

Those living with HIV/AIDs pass through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance and coping, says the ministry of health's HIV/AIDs counseling guideline.

The 1999 UNAIDS Epidemic Update released recently shows that HIV has infected 50 million, of whom more than 33 million are still alive and over 16 million have died, since the epidemic began.

AIDS deaths reached a record 2.6 million this year and that new HIV infections continued unabated, with an estimated 5.6 million adults and children worldwide becoming infected in 1999.

"With an epidemic of this scale, every new infection adds to the ripple effect, impacting families, communities, households and increasingly, businesses and economies. AIDS has emerged as the single greatest threat to development in many countries of the world", warns Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS.(END/IPS/bt/lm/mn/99)


Copyright © 1999 -Inter Press Service, Publisher. All rights reserved to Inter Press Service. Reproduced with permission.Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Inter Press Service, IPS-ONLINE, World Desk via Panisperna 207 00184 Rome, Italy. Email IPS visit Inter Press Service.

Information in this article was accurate in December 1, 1999. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.