An Overview of HIV/AIDS Prevention activities in Amhara State

by Hailu Tsigie

In the first part of the interview, he had with this reporter and which appeared in this column last week, Dr. Daniel Argaw, Head of the Health Bureau of the Amhara State, gave brief overviews on the mother and child health situations there. He described the level of the health coverage in the region with special attention on the treatment and service provided to mothers and pregnant women. He also indicated how reproductive health and family planning services are carried out among service clients in the region as well as the cooperation among service rendering institutions in the effort to promote the services. Here continues the second and last part of the interview.

Herald: What measures have so far been taken in the region to tackle the fast spread of HIV/AIDS?

Dr. Daniel: In 1990 E.C., we established, coordinating committee where members from higher administrative bodies to the last Kebele units participate in the battle against the pandemic. At regional level, we formed a technical committee on HIV/AIDS comprised of different bureaux such a Women's Affairs Office, the Education Bureau, Plan and Economic Development Bureau, Agriculture Bureau and NGOs working on HIV/AIDS. Religious leaders also showed commitment to spearhead the campaign against the disease.

Herald: What strategies have been devised to raise awareness among the people?

Dr. Daniel: Since the formation of the committee, last year a lot of activities have been through to reach the public. We produced a film on HIV/AIDS. Which we used at schools to educate the student population at schools, market place and other public gatherings. WE also transmitted essential ant-HIV messages through leaflets, brochures, magazines and other forms. Further more, we trained the different journalists working in the region on their role in fighting the disease. The bureau also trained extension team leaders from zonal agricultural departments so that we could use some of the extension agents to convey our messages to the rural community. We formed anti-HIV clubs in all high schools and trained teachers as anti-HIV coordinators. We organized orientation programmes on the policy of HIV/AIDS to all zonal similar coordinating committees. We also plan to give our regional HIV/AIDS control activity programme to different donors with a view to ensure the raising of the participation of different NGOs.

Herald: Do you think the health policy as well as HIV policy helped to execute your goals?

Dr. Daniel: Since the implementation of the health policy, I can say a lot of success has been achieved. Prevention and control activities of infectious and communicable diseases have been intensified. We reorganized our staff and devised new working methods. Previously we used to train nurses who provide general medical service but now we managed to produce nurses for specific purposes in the effort to strengthen the efficiency of our medical institutions.

These nurses will be assigned for specific responsibilities, in different areas of services. The nurses will assume their tasks in prevention, and treatment as public and midwife nurses to look after pregnant women and other duties. For the strategic implementation of the health policy, we have started to train health workers for specific targets.

Herald: How do you evaluate the success of your public health programmes?

Dr. Daniel: Yes we have several monitoring mechanisms to evaluate the progress performance of our institutions whether they are health institutions, hospitals or clinics. All health institutions report to respective Woreda health units on a monthly basis. The Woreda health units respectively report their activities to the zonal health departments. We do regular evaluations of these reports at regional level. However, there are still limitations in effecting this process from all the health institutions.

Herald: What do you think are the constraints affecting your activities?

Dr. Daniel: Shortage of trained manpower is our major problem. Our institutions are operating with a minimum qualified manpower. Many professionals quit their jobs with us as a result of better renumeration from the booming private medical institutions.

It is not only with the number we are short of but also with the diversity of the professionals. Although it is difficult to expect full efficiency, we are trying the best we can to enhance our health coverage.

Despite all these, our health institutions are providing commendable services. Our professionals are performing enormous tasks. Last year alone our health institutions gave services to over two million patients.