Ten and so years ago, AIDS was truly a death sentence affecting millions of individuals and their families. It threatened the very foundation of the societies making millions of orphans and hampering economic development.
Today, an AIDS-free generation may actually become attainable. Globally, new HIV infectious and mortality have declined by over one third over the past decade. For this to happen, all rounded, contentious and integrated efforts have been made.
As part of the world, Ethiopia has been striving so as to attain the vision of having AIDS free generation. The Annual Joint Review Meeting which was held last week in Hawassa town, in which a number of Federal and State anti-AIDS offices and bureaus, international organizations and media partners among others have actively taken part.
The meeting was jointly organized by Federal HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Office (FHAPCO) and Health Bureau of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State (SNNPS). The three days forum thoroughly discussed on the last year’s anti-AIDS performance report and on the way forward.
In his deliberating speech, Health State Minister Dr. Amir Aman said that over the past two decades, the nation has registered a remarkable achievements on AIDS. Indicating the achievements made so far, Dr. Amin said, new HIV infection rate has declined by 90 per cent, and the prevalence is down to 0.03 per cent. As to him, the number is even better than the planned progress by the Sustainable Development Goals which estimated the peak advancement would be 0.28 per cent. Accordingly, Ethiopia could alleviate the 106,000 HIV death toll to 16,000.
Even though the number is still high, the ministry together with all partners is doing its level best in declining the disease in general to 0 level. On the other hand, people who used anti retro-viral therapy are also increased in number. In 2002, there were only 900 people using the therapy. However, after the joint work of the ministry with other stakeholders, the number increased to 390,000 within a decade. Today, the country has over 1,000 health institutions that are mainly targeting on preventing HIV and AIDS.
Nevertheless, as many said, the current problem is hesitancy of the public, thinking non-existence of the disease. “Rather, it is time to be more conscious and join forces for the reduction and end HIV and AIDS once and for all”, Dr. Amin noted. According to him, the hesitancy is caused by the remarkable successes registered so far. But if the people not actively engaged and eliminate this thought, the disease will spread out again and it might pass beyond the point of no return. The achievement is also reason to reduce donation from international organization’s. Therefore, culminating the hindrances requires collaborated effort of stakeholder more than ever before.
Mariam Maluwa UNAIDS Country Director to Ethiopia believes that Ethiopia’s achievement is very inspiring and igniting point to achieve extended results. She said; “It is very encouraging to witness that UNAIDS’ feasible strategy and associated targets as a backbone of scud up, timely and accelerated HIV interventions in Ethiopia”. In an effort to end AIDS, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are proposed and feasible strategies also set in 2015 which has got acceptance of world countries including Ethiopia.
The goals offer a broader comprehensive framework of addressing health inequalities in an integrated manner together with other development, humanitarian components and peace and security matters. The goals pave the way to come up with remarkable AIDS declination by 2030 through creating a conducive environment for a concerted effort among partners. “The epidemic cannot be ended without addressing the determinants of our own ability and facing risks,” Maluwa said.
Reducing new HIV infection and AIDS by half a million and eliminating stigma and discrimination in 2030 is one of the three main goals to achieve SDGs. And Ethiopia is on the right track succeeding the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, allocating domestic resources and mainstreaming HIV and AIDS in various institutions, among others. She focused that Ethiopia needs extra effort of accessing HIV and sexual reproductive services especially for the youth. It is also expected to empowering young people (particularly girls) to prevent HIV, improving treatment for children and reducing stigma and discrimination. “UNAIDS remains committed to this end.”
Federal HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Office Deputy Director General, Alemu Anno for his part said that, since its inception, HIV and AIDS has killed a number of citizens worldwide. For this reason it has caused miserable social, economical and psychological impacts. Cognizant of this fact, the government, together with various stakeholders, has been engaged in mobilizing the people to be well informed and conscious to be protected from the disease. And the government also established an organization which mainly committed to reduce HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases by organizing awareness raising programmes, accessing services and behavioural change. In 2008 EFY, the nation has begun GTP II and Health Sector Transformation Plan (HSTP) which will be implemented until 2012 EC.
Following the acceptance of plan concept note and financial support of Global Fund, various notable achievements are registered. As the programme mainly targeted declining prevalence rate in emerging states, the 5th National HIV Prevention Summit was held at Afar State. The summit, which was attended by various governmental and non-governmental organizations, aroused states for better achievements.
In a bid to make a wide prevention programme, last year, the office has offered HIV testing, counselling services to 8.5 million people. Among this, 16,557 mothers have got guidance and counselling service concerning on the way of Preventing Mother-to-Child HIV and AIDS Transmission (PMTCT). Similarly, 393,609 citizens are already started using Anti-Retro-viral Therapy (ART).
Beside preventing the diseases, the office also facilitated conditions to help people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) to engage in various income generation activities. During the reported period, some 515 thousand orphans has got food aid and created access to education. Additionally, the office offered a financial aid for some 63,187 HIV positive citizens. In a bid to support the immense engagement of the media, the office has organized training programmes to media practitioners.
Though the office has made notable works and registered cognitive result, yet the disease is not reduced at the needed rate. Each year some 16,000 citizens are passing away due to AIDS and 21 thousands are newly infected. Of these victims, one-third are youths. Today, 64 per cent of the citizens made HIV test and among the positives, 65 per cent have got ART services. But still, the public awareness towards the pandemic is very low.
Therefore, he said; “We need to be conscious on the continuity of the already registered progress, plan, implementation, monitoring and evaluation works so as to achieve a better improvement and end AIDS by 2030.” To this end, the final document which believed to mobilize the mass and extended programme (Targeted HIV/ART Catch up Campaign) would address emerging states already prepared to be implemented in 2009 EFY.
Besides all the strategy, the office proposed the public to actively engage against the epidemic as a backbone of its anti-AIDS campaign. He said that the public need to do its level best in reducing the impact of AIDS and creating AIDS-free generation. The 2009 EC campaign considers all the possibilities ad challenges on the ground. The office identifies financial problem, shortage of condoms, interruption of ART and low public perception towards HIV existence, among the challenge faced so far.
Therefore, State Anti-HIV AIDS Office has received plan of the year from the hand of President Dr. Mulatu Teshome to increase inspiration on them. This year International AIDS Day will be marked throughout the country with a theme of “Hands up For HIV Prevention”. The day would create a great public mobilization.
On the other hand, the office envisaged to reducing rate of expansion through following a systematic approach of utilizing national resource using various governmental structures and accessing monitoring and evaluation, according to Alemu.
Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples State Health Bureau Deputy Head Menna Mekuriya said that the state has made various AIDS alleviation programmes by engaging the mass community and deploying trained health personalities. In so doing, promising results have been registered so far. Accordingly, the number of death and new infections has declined due to raising awareness of the public on the prevention and causes of HIV and AIDS.
Stigma and discrimination of PLWHA also shown a tremendous improvement, he said adding that the bureau has organized awareness raising programmes in which 11 million people have taken part. The bureau has also engaged in identifying most HIV prone areas and made effort to prevent the pandemic through providing various clinical service to the community at large.
He also said that though currently the state achieved laudable reduction on AIDS, it needs extra effort to achieve the target set by world health programme which envisaged creating HIV free society. The bureau also planed to extended endeavour in decreasing the disease at notable rate through increasing the public participation through voluntary testing.
The meeting concluded capitalizing on redoubling last year’s performance and work to mobilize the mass especially the youth on the fight against AIDS. To get the better of the needed progress, most of the higher education institutions will begin offering a course on HIV and AIDS. Beside this, youth associations, elders and women should be strengthened to achieve the goals set by HSTP as well as SDGs to end up the virus by 2030.
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