Ethiopia’s AIDS Problem an ‘Emergency’ But Can Be Controlled, U.N. Special Envoy Lewis Says
Although Ethiopia's HIV/AIDS problem is an "emergency," the country's AIDS prevalence rate is "still in the bounds of control," U.N. Secretary General Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said yesterday at a press conference, Agence France-Presse reports. With three million HIV-positive citizens, Ethiopia has one of the largest HIV-positive populations in the world, along with South Africa, India and Nigeria. However, unlike other African nations, where the prevalence rate of HIV among adults is in the double figures, Ethiopia's HIV-positive residents represent between 6.4% and 9% of the population. "When you have crossed the 5% threshold, you [have] an emergency on your hands, and unless the response is urgent and dramatic, you get an explosion of the pandemic of the kind that has occurred in southern and eastern Africa," Lewis said. However, the country's officials "by no means have lost the capacity to turn the pandemic around," he said. Lewis "urged" government officials to implement programs to reduce vertical HIV transmission, to distribute "in a limited way" antiretroviral drugs to the country's HIV-positive citizens and to "tackle the problem" of AIDS orphans, who "represent a potential catastrophe." However, Ethiopia "cannot [fight AIDS] alone," Lewis said, adding that the distribution of World Bank funds to fight HIV/AIDS should be stepped up (Berhane, Agence France-Presse, 3/21). World Bank Vice President for Africa Callisto Madavo said today at another press conference that HIV/AIDS could "wipe out" all development gains made by Ethiopia over the past 30 to 40 years if the epidemic is not quickly addressed (Andualem, Associated Press, 3/21). "I genuinely believe [the virus] can be stopped in Ethiopia. ... If the government acts, the international community acts, Ethiopia would be seen as a model of response to the pandemic," Lewis said (Agence France-Presse, 3/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.