March 17, 2005
A new toll-free hotline set up to provide Ethiopians with HIV/AIDS information has been flooded with calls since it began last week, officials said today. The service, known as Wegen AIDS Talkline, is accessible by telephone at number 952 with no charge and has received between 1,800 and 2,200 callers per day, said Gashaw Mengistu, the service coordinator. "There is a lot of stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in [Ethiopia], the hotline is the most appropriate way to get information, it is completely anonymous," Mengistu said. Callers can receive information ranging from the location of HIV testing centers to antiretroviral drug treatments to the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission. The hotline, jointly funded by the United States and Ethiopia's HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, has a staff of about 20 counselors who are available Monday-Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.