Focus on HIV/AIDS

Focus on HIV/AIDS


No wonder most reports and new revelations that continue to be issued about Addis Ababa have in a sustainable manner become gloomy.  First it was the city's chronic problems with regard to sanitation that it has taken the daring, though by no means adequate, effort of a few courageous individuals to come to the front and mobilize the people to clean up the city.


The second and most devastating revelation has been the hopelessly inept and self-admittedly anti-democratic, anti-development and corrupt city administration that has been messing up the otherwise continental metropolis for the last 11 years.  Thanks, though, all or rather the bulk of the malignant council members have been suddenly dragged like an empty sack and trashed into the dustbin by none other than the prime minister himself, who also has to take a considerable part of the blame for waiting this long to take action.


All this, however, pales next to a recent grave report regarding the city's grim status with regard to the spread of HIV/AIDS. It would seem shocking even to mention but one cannot disregard a recent report released by a certain study group which declared bluntly that the population of this same city is projected to decrease by HALF A MILLION in the coming decade or two due to the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic. At stake here is the lives of countless numbers of young people and adolescents in the city who are undoubtedly the cornerstones of development and the country's hopes for the future.


This dangerous statistics could also be extrapolated to reflect the whole situation in the country. To judge by reports coming from relevant international bodies, Ethiopia is next only to the Republic of South Africa as the leading AIDS-affected country in Africa, itself ranking first from among the continents of the world. With the scenario both in the city and the country as a whole just about to embark onto epidemic proportions, the question looms whether we need to do something with all reasonable urgency.


A study released by the Ministry of Health several years ago put the AIDS distribution rate among major cities as 10 percent while that of rural areas is estimated at seven percent.  This puts the number of people affected by the virus in the country as a whole at close to 2.2 million people–with 400,000 people developing full-blown AIDS in just the last couple of years alone. Taken as a whole, this puts the number of Ethiopians who died of Aids since the onset of the epidemic in 1984/85 at close to one million. Needles to say, unless timely and concerted efforts are initiated on time, the catastrophe, such as was seen in the case of Uganda some years back, will be horrible to contemplate.


One of the most vivid manifestations of the epidemic is the severe congestion that is being observed in the city's hospitals as a result of the disease. The same report by the Ministry of Health indicated that more than half of the city's hospital beds are occupied by AIDS patients. Given the traditionally poor status of the handful of hospitals in the city, this obviously creates tremendous problems in accommodating people being treated for other types of diseases. And it obviously requires a tremendous amount of budget on the part of the government to tend to these patients–thus creating a deep impact on the country's socio-economic situation.


With all these challenges ahead, the new administration of the city thus has to brace up for a really challenging future, if at all it has to show any worth. Viable programs need to be devised to address the myriads of problems the city is facing and in particular to the initiation of proper sensitization activities to counter the explosive situation with regard to Aids.