Addis Ababa February 29/2016 Ethiopia plans to prevent more than half a million AIDS-related deaths and up to 80,000 new HIV infections by 2020.
Acting director of the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO), Dr. Alebachew Achamyeleh said the next five years are critical for Ethiopia in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
According to "Key Correspondents Reporting for Action on HIV", Dr. Alebachew indicated that " Ethiopia is in a strong position to achieve the goal of ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030."
Ethiopia has already exceeded its previous five-year target, having reduced new HIV infections from 0.28 per cent in 2010 to 0.03 per cent in 2015, it was learned. The plan was to reach 0.14 per cent.
"This makes Ethiopia among one of the most successful countries in the world," the acting director pointed out.
HIV prevention activities since 2010 have focused mainly on people most at risk of infection, according to Dr. Alebachew, who added that activities focused on identifying places and people with a high risk of HIV infection like hotspot areas for sex workers and long distance truck drivers, as well as addressing harmful practices like gender-based violence.
He stated that Ethiopia has been working to address HIV in the last five years in the following areas: intensifying HIV prevention; enhancing care, treatment and support; and generating and using strategic information.
Prevention activities have included programs in schools, universities and youth centers to encourage young people to change their behavior related to sexual health.
Dr. Alebachew further said “more than 3,000 health facilities give voluntary counseling and testing service, while 377,000 people are on treatment in 1,500 service centers. Around 35,000 of these people began the service in 2015."
According to the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, over 70,000 people died of AIDS in 2010. By 2015, the death rate had fallen by 70 per cent. "This is the outcome of the increased access to antiretroviral treatment," the acting director said.
Even though the country has made remarkable achievements in the last five years there are still major gaps which need attention. According to Dr. Alebachew, only 20 percent of HIV positive children are taking antiretroviral. "We need to work hard towards reaching as many of them as possible," he stated.
He also warned that Ethiopia lags behind in comprehensive knowledge about HIV and AIDS, especially among the younger generation, who tend to wrongly perceive HIV as no longer a threat due to the reduced incidence.
"We need to intensify our coordinated efforts. Undertaking high impact targeted prevention activities and targeted HIV counseling and testing are among the priorities over the next five years."