HIV/AIDS is a major pandemic in many parts of Africa but one country on the continent is making huge strides to eradicate the disease. According to the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO), Ethiopia plans to prevent up to 80,000 new cases of HIV infection and more than half a million AIDS-related deaths by 2020, and as Dr. Alebachew Achamyeleh, acting director of HAPCO, told Keycorrespondents.org:
“I believe Ethiopia is in a strong position to achieve the goal of ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030.”
There’s good reason to believe that. As Dr. Achamyeleh pointed out, Ethiopia has already exceeded its previous five-year target of reducing new HIV infections to 0.14 percent. HAPCO actually reduced the incidence of HIV from 0.28 percent in 2010 to 0.03 percent in 2015. The secret to Ethiopia’s success, Dr. Achamyeleh said, is focusing mainly on people at the highest risk of infection. “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,” Key Correspondents reported. Additionally, the country has focused on intensifying HIV prevention with programs in schools, universities and youth centers encouraging young adults to change their sexual health behavior; enhancing care, treatment, and support; and generating strategic information during the past five years.
“In Ethiopia, more than 3,000 health facilities give voluntary counselling 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,” Dr. Achamyeleh said. Taking note of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office report that the 2015 AIDS death rate had fallen by more than 70% from the more than 70,000 people who died of AIDS in 2010, he added, “This is the outcome of the increased access to antiretroviral treatment.”
As Ethiopia gears up to meet their goals for 2020 and 2030, Dr. Achamyeleh did note only approximately 20 percent of HIV positive children are taking antiretrovirals, a stat that can turn around with better knowledge and comprehension of HIV as a still very real threat in the country, despite the decreased incidence.
“We need to intensify our coordinated efforts. Undertaking high impact targeted prevention activities and targeted HIV counselling and testing are among the priorities over the next five years,” said Dr. Achamyeleh.