Ethiopia To Launch HIV/AIDS Initiative Providing Free Antiretrovirals, Health Official Says
Ethiopia's Deputy Health Minister Tedros Adhanom on Monday announced that the country will launch an HIV/AIDS initiative that will include the provision of antiretroviral drugs, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. According to Adhanom, 20 hospitals in the country will provide antiretroviral therapy at no cost to 30,000 people over the next year, while the government aims to deliver treatment to 200,000 people within three years. The program -- funded in part by $43 million from the U.S. government -- is the fifth HIV/AIDS campaign launched by the Ethiopian government since 1996, but it is the first to include the provision of antiretrovirals (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/24). The initiative also plans to increase health coverage nationwide, "speed up behavioral change" and accelerate local production of antiretrovirals as a "matter of urgency," according to IRIN/AllAfrica.com. If all people living with HIV/AIDS in the country were provided with antiretrovirals, 78,000 AIDS-related deaths could be prevented during the program's first year while the number of AIDS orphans could be reduced to 332,000 by 2008, according to government estimates. "Even though our struggle is bearing some encouraging results, we must not forget that we have one and a half million people infected by the virus," Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said at the launch of the program, adding, "Even if the rate of progression of the epidemic is decreasing, hundreds of thousands of our people continue to perish" (IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 1/24). Although government figures estimate the number of HIV-positive people in the country is about 1.5 million, the World Health Organization has said the number likely is closer to 2.8 million (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.