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ETHIOPIA: Over 200,000 under-fives have HIV/AIDS

Two hundred and fifty thousand children under the age of five are living with the HIV/AIDS virus in Ethiopia, according to the ministry of health.

Desta Woldeyohannes, who heads the HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Prevention and Control Section of the ministry, said the children had contracted the virus from their
mothers. "The problem here is the mothers are not getting tested before they get married and the mothers may be infected before marriage," she told IRIN. "While she is pregnant, maybe the husband gets infected and passes the virus on to her and the unborn child."

Ethiopia has the third highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Only India and South Africa have a larger population living with the virus. According to the ministry of health around 3.2 million people have contracted the virus in the country. As yet no official figures exist on the number of children between the ages of five and fourteen who have contracted the virus.

The virus has also orphaned a million children, placing a huge burden on already overstretched social services. Desta said the ministry of health is aiming to increase the number of counsellors in the country to work with people who have HIV/AIDS. Speaking at the opening of a 10-day workshop, she said up to 250 people will be trained by the ministry. The ministry believes that by the year 2014, the number of orphans will reach 2.1 million.

The Ethiopian government has identified AIDS as one of the toughest issues it now faces and has turned to the international community for help. The World Bank has already given a US $59 million loan to the government to help tackle the crisis.

Theme (s): Children,

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

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