Prime minister's wife takes public HIV test

ETHIOPIA: Prime minister's wife takes public HIV test


Azeb Mesfin, wife of prime minister Meles Zenawi.

ADDIS ABABA, 1 Dec 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - The Ethiopian prime minister’s wife became one of the few high-profile figures in the country to take a public HIV test on Tuesday.

Azeb Mesfin, 38, joined seven female ambassadors to take the test to mark World AIDS Day and urged others to be tested and "know their status".

"I would encourage others to follow our example and find out their status," the mother of three said after her test at Zewditu Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa, currently Ethiopia’s largest HIV/AIDS treatment centre.

She is spearheading a campaign in the country to raise awareness, as part of the National Coalition of Women Against HIV/AIDS, a group of high-profile women including senior government ministers. Azeb added that her husband, Meles Zenawi, had taken a test.

Voluntary counselling and testing is seen as a critical weapon in the fight against the epidemic. Still, few Ethiopians have the opportunity to be tested, as there are only a handful of centres around the country. Currently, some 9,000 Ethiopians receive antiretroviral treatment. The government hopes to expand that number to almost 50,000 by next year.

Azeb joined Mulu Ketsala, state minister for finance and economy, as well as US Ambassador Aurelia Brazeal in taking the test.

"HIV/AIDS is of special concern to women and especially to African women," the American ambassador said. "When it comes to HIV/AIDS, knowledge is power. Knowing how the disease is transmitted, how transmission can be prevented, how it can be treated and how best to help those living with the virus are all key pieces of information that each of us needs to have."

Ambassador Brazeal said the results of their tests would not be released as testing should remain "safe, simple and confidential".

According to recently revised figures released by the government, some 1.5 million people are estimated to be HIV-positive. The prevalence rate in rural areas is a little over two percent, while in urban areas some 12 percent are infected. Roughly one million children have also been orphaned, according to the government's HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office.


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