HAPCO: HIV/AIDS remains to be a major health challenge

(EBC; August 24, 2017) - HIV/AIDS remains to be one of the major health challenges in Ethiopia with over 27000 new infections last year, the Federal HIV/ AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO) has said.

In an exclusive interview with EBC FM Radio 104.7 on Wednesday, Acting Director of HAPCO, Dr. Achamyeleh Alebachew said currently at least 718,000 people are living with HIV across Ethiopia.

"HIV new infections have declined by 90 percent compared to the level in 2000, but there are still 27000 new HIV infections during the previous year. There are around 16000 deaths annually due to AIDS. It is evident that HIV/AIDS is still big health problem in our country."

According to the acting director, currently there are around nine million people who undergo HIV counseling and testing while a total of 420 thousand people living with HIV are receiving ART treatment.

Data from the Ministry of Health reveals that HIV was first detected in 1984; and until 1990s, the pandemic had remained to be one of the most killer diseases in the country as witnessed in other African countries too.

With the introduction of the first HIV policy in 1998 and multisectoral response on HIV prevention, care and free treatment in 2005, new infections have declined by 90 percent, according to Acting Director of HAPCO.

He says even if new infections continue to decline by 90 percent, 27000 new infections were reported last year.

HIV prevalence in Ethiopia stands at a little less than 1.2 percent but Addis Ababa is reported to have the highest HIV prevalence at the rate of five percent followed by Gambella of around 4.5 percent.

"Currently the HIV prevalence rate is at 1.18 percent. There are around 718,000 people living with HIV in our country of whom 60 percent are women and 40 percent men." he added

Meanwhile, HIV burden in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples' Regional State and Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State is as low as 0.7 percent.

Accordingly, HIV prevalence varies across communities with 23 percent among sex workers, 4.2 percent among truck drivers, and 4 percent among inmates.

Reporter: Muluneh Gebre