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ETHIOPIA: Help needed to tackle AIDS

Photo: IRIN
Dr Ibrahim Jabr and Dr Petros Olango at national AIDS workshop.
ADDIS ABABA, 13 February 2002 (PlusNews) - Ethiopia can never defeat AIDS alone and needs the help of the international community, the deputy speaker of the country’s House of Representatives admitted on Wednesday.

Dr Petros Olango said that the only way to overcome the devastating effects of the virus was through a united front. "We are all aware that millions of children are becoming orphans due to HIV and this is a great challenge to the nation," he told a workshop on HIV/AIDS in Addis Ababa. "Something has to be done."

Dr Petros told the workshop that Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world and the third highest number of people living with the virus. "From our previous experience we have learnt that the national response to epidemics cannot be done in a scattered and fragmented way...It requires a true partnership to work together to overcome HIV/AIDS in the country," he said.

Ibrahim Jabr, the UN Resident Coordinator, said strong leadership was needed to combat AIDS. "AIDS is not just a disease," he said. "It is the result of attitudes and behaviours. It is closely linked to poverty and a state of despair. It cannot be fought just as a disease."

Jabr, who is also head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Ethiopia, said the virus had a devastating impact on Africa's development. He warned that without a multi-sector approach Ethiopia would face the "calamitous" effects of the virus suffered by some other African countries.

"In some countries the situation may even deteriorate to having a whole generation of professions and service providers wiped out and the very political and social fabric disintegrate," he warned.

Dr Petros said that in Ethiopia, around three million people were living with HIV/AIDS and that 250,000 children under five had the virus. "We lack capacity as well as knowledge on how
to properly implement projects and utilise the available funds at all levels," he stressed. "Therefore we need the support of our genuine partners in order to raise our capacity for a quick and proper response to this epidemic."

Nigatu Mereke, head of the National AIDS Council Secretariat (NACS) said in his opening address to the workshop that Ethiopia had been hard hit. But he said positive and important lessons had been learned and that the country now had a "comprehensive policy" to tackle the virus and its effects.

Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews,

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

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