National HIV/AIDS forum launched

ETHIOPIA: National HIV/AIDS forum launched

NAIROBI, 1 Apr 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - Ethiopia has launched a National Partnership Forum Against HIV/AIDS to coordinate a multi-sectoral response to the disease, highlight the government's commitment and bring together a wide range of partners to avoid duplication of efforts, the government said.

A statement from the foreign ministry quoted President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who launched the forum on Wednesday, as saying: "We should be able to discharge our historical responsibility of saving the generation from HIV/AIDS."

The statement quoted Girma as telling the forum that among other initiatives to fight the pandemic, the government had decided to supply anti-retrovirals (ARVs) to people living with HIV/AIDS. He called on Ethiopian society to actively involve itself in preventing the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Nigatu Mereke, the forum's chairman, said it had been convened due to a waste of valuable resources resulting from duplication of efforts in turn arising from lack of coordination among those fighting HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has 2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, which has orphaned some 1 million children. Experts estimate that the virus kills around 600 people a day, while two-thirds of all deaths in the capital, Addis Ababa, of people aged between 20 and 54 are HIV/AIDS-related.

However, Ethiopia's efforts to support growing numbers of AIDS patients still face huge financial hurdles. The country began a limited distribution of ARVs late last year. The drugs – imported from India - are currently available at six clinics and cost around US $50 per patient for a month's supply.

According to health experts, at least 200,000 people in Ethiopia could qualify for the treatment, which is being made available on a first-come-first-served basis. However, the costs dwarf the country’s tiny health budget, which stands at $120 million a year - just under $2 per person.

Currently, the government is examining ways of ensuring a greater supply and reducing the cost by way of financial support from the Global Fund and through generic drugs. It has secured multi-million dollar funding, but the money has yet to be distributed in full. The health ministry has been allotted $425 million for the production of ARVs.


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