Addis Builds Leadership to Stem HIV/Aid Epidemic
United Nations Development Programme (New York)
July 11, 2002
Ethiopia is mobilizing more than 250 leaders at all levels of government and civil society to step up efforts to reduce the number
of people contracting HIV/AIDS and improve treatment and care for those infected with the disease.
UNDP and the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development conducted a seminar for top government executives earlier this month to launch the Leadership Development Programme to slow the epidemic.
Ethiopia has been hit hard by the deadly disease, with 2.1 million adults and children living with HIV, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Over six per cent of Ethiopians ages 15 to 49 are infected with HIV, and an estimated 120,000 Ethiopians died of AIDS last year.
Despite its devastating impact, many Ethiopians remain unaware of the risks HIV/AIDS poses. A survey in 2000, for example, found that more than 60 per cent of women ages 15 to 24 did not know that a person who looks healthy may be infected with
President Girma Woldegiorgis, who chairs the National AIDS Council Secretariat, said while the community should be mobilized to fight the epidemic, there is a pressing need for leadership. "The Government should be in the forefront to coordinate efforts by all stakeholders for the control and prevention of the epidemic and alleviate its impact," he emphasized.
Experience from other countries shows that leadership is critical in combating HIV/AIDS and in achieving progress towards the objectives set by last year's UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the UN Millennium Development Goals and the Government's HIV/AIDS action plan.
The leadership programme is a new approach that aims to build on individual and organizational responsibilities to address the causes that fuel the epidemic. The process will span nine months, involving leaders from all sectors of society including government officials and civil society organizations, such as youth groups, religious organizations, women's groups and the private sector.
The seminar for government executives focused on the experiences of countries such as Thailand and Uganda in reversing the epidemic and how they can be applied in Ethiopia. They also discussed practical steps and strategies at the federal, regional and local level to combat the epidemic.
Support for the programme is a part of the overall UNDP strategy on HIV/AIDS, which helps countries promote advocacy and policy dialogue; build capacity to control the epidemic; mainstream HIV/AIDS programmes across government agencies; protect the human rights of those affected by HIV/AIDS; and carry out information and awareness campaigns.