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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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