The Hailemariam & Roman Foundation (HRF), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, South Ethiopia, Central Ethiopia and Sidama regions, has held an advocacy and training forum on the current HIV/AIDS situations and responses from February 7-8 at Wolaita Sodo City. Religious and community leaders selected from high HIV incidence woredas in the three regions have participated the forum held with the theme of “Let Communities Lead” to revitalize the move towards attaining epidemic control in the areas.
The program began with an introductory speech delivered by H.E. Mr. Endashaw Shibru, the head of the South Ethiopia Regional State Health Bureau. In his address, Mr. Endashaw highlighted that the national HIV prevalence rate among people aged 15-49 stands at 0.91 percent. While the HIV prevalence rate has declined among adults of both sexes over time, it remains disproportionately higher among women as compared to men. In the southern region of Ethiopia, the HIV prevalence rate is 0.43%, but the prevalence varies from zone to zone, woreda to woreda, town to town, and also by gender and age. He called upon religious and community leaders to use their acceptances in the community to educate and support communities in the efforts geared towards attaining epidemic control in these high-incidence woredas.
Finally, Mr. Endashaw has expressed his sincere gratitude to the Hailemariam & Roman Foundation for partnering with the Federal Ministry of Health and the three regions in support of combating HIV in high-burden areas.
In his part, Mr. Fekadu Yadeta, the Lead Executive Officer of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office at the Federal Ministry of Health, stated that the national HIV prevalence has been successfully reduced to below one percent due to the collective efforts of the government, development partners, religious and community leaders, and community at large, s over the past years. Mr. Fekadu underscored that despite these achievements, the ongoing transmission of the virus persists as efforts to combat it have occasionally been taken the edge off due to complacency with the achieved results.
He added that the current trend of HIV transmission is changing among the most vulnerable young people, not only those with low economic status, but also those who have been brought up by the well to do families, as well as those who drive short-distance transport vehicles /three-wheeled bajaj/. He mentioned the importance of taking these all into consideration in future activities. Finally, acknowledged that religious and community leaders have made significant contribution in curbing the spread of the virus in the past 30 years through coordinated efforts, and called upon themto use their acceptance in the communities and rich experiences in support of intensifying the fight henceforth to control the epidemic.
Her Excellency Mr. Roman Tesfaye, the Former First Lady of Ethiopia and CEO of the HRF, delivered the opening speech and emphasized the importance of empowering today’s youth, who did not observe with their eyes the devastating pain, sufferings and deaths caused by the HIV/AIDS at times in the past where there wasn’t access to antiretroviral therapy, by equiping them with the knowledge and resources necessary to protect themselves from HIV/.
H.E. Roman, highlighted the need to enhance the HIV/AIDS response in various settings, including schools, religious institutions, traditional social institutions like ‘Edir,’ youth associations, large scale development schemes, and in other areas where they move and work.
Her Excellency pointed out that while there has been a decrease in stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS, even now it remains a significant barrier that must be eliminated. She called for creating enabling environment to people get unhindered in using HIV counseling and testing services, along with immediate initiation of antiretroviral drug treatment upon positive diagnosis, and to strengthen care support for the needy.
In closing, Her Excellency reaffirmed the commitment of HRF to continue providing its support to the national and local efforts aimed at attaining HIV epidemic control and further reducing to a point where it ceases to be a public health problem.
During the forum, Mr. Habtamu Kassa, the Head of the Multi-sectoral Response Coordination Desk at the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, presented a paper on the the current HIV/AIDS situations and responses in the three regions. Following the presentation, a fruitful discussion was held.
The attendees, acknowledging the significance of the forum, conveyed their deep gratitude for the efforts made by the Hailemariam & Roman Foundation in collaborationwith Ministry of Health and regional government entities at all levels to address the prevailing HIV/AIDS situation in Woredas with high infection rates. As religious and community leaders, they vowed to actively contribute and take ownership of the cause.
Hailemariam & Roman Foundation
February 2024, Wolaita Sodo City