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ETHIOPIA: Geldof calls on leaders to take AIDS test

Photo: IRIN/Anthony Mitchell
Irish rock star Bob Geldof with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
ADDIS ABABA, 2 June 2003 (PlusNews) - Bob Geldof has called on Ethiopia’s leaders to be tested for HIV/AIDS to prove their commitment to combating the pandemic.

The musician and Third-World campaigner has offered to be tested alongside Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his key ministers before leaving the country.

His call comes at the end of a five-day official visit to Ethiopia - his first since launching the Live Aid appeal back in 1984, which raised US $100 million for famine victims. "I am prepared to be tested along with the prime minister and the political leaders of this country," the 51-year-old singer stated. "It will prove a commitment to fighting this deadly virus. By doing so you can show that there is no stigma, no shame attached to being tested or having the virus itself."

Negatu Mereke, the head of the government's HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, has vowed to undergo a public HIV/AIDS test to help tackle the stigma attached to the virus. He admitted he had not been tested despite advising others to do so.

Ethiopia's health ministry says testing is a key weapon against HIV/AIDS, which has infected 2.2 million people.

"HIV/AIDS-related stigma builds upon and reinforces earlier negative thinking in many societies," Negatu told IRIN. "People with HIV/AIDS are often believed to have deserved what has happened to them for doing something wrong," he said.

"It is important that people have a test. If I start, I think my colleagues will follow. It will send a message to people and show that I am committed and others should follow. I have adjusted to this and spoken to my family, so I am going to do it."

Senior UN officials announced they had been tested. Samuel Nyambi, the UN resident coordinator, and Bjorn Jungqvist, the head of the UN's Children's Fund in Ethiopia, both said they had been tested. "The fear of stigma and discrimination hinders people from adopting preventive measures such as using condoms, seeking testing for HIV or discussing their HIV status with their sexual partners," commented Jungqvist.

Theme (s): Other,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC