Ethiopian Religious Leaders to Launch Campaign About HIV/AIDS
May 8, 2003
The leaders of Ethiopia's three main religions will launch a national campaign to create awareness about HIV/AIDS and attempt to dispel the stigma attached to those who are infected.
The week-long campaign, which is being launched by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Islamic Affairs Supreme Council and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church, will begin when Muslims attend Friday prayers, the leaders said Wednesday. "It is obligatory for every Muslim to care and support our brothers and sisters infected by the virus and to avoid the stigma and discrimination of people living with the virus," said Sheik Abdurahiman Hussein, chair of the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.
Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian country, but more than 30 percent of its 62 million people are Muslims. Abuna Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the country's largest religion, said the main message of the campaign will be the need for behavioral change and for people to show "mercy, concern and care for those living with the virus."
Negatu Mereke, an official with the government's HIV/AIDS prevention office, said 2.2 million Ethiopians are infected with HIV. Only South Africa, Nigeria and India have a larger percentage of their population infected with the disease, Negatu said. Except for a few advertisements on state-run television and radio, the government has done little to create awareness about the disease. "Most Ethiopians have heard of HIV/AIDS, but there are many misconceptions and safe behaviors are not practiced. Stigma and discrimination is widespread and damaging ... care and support," he said.
05.08.03; Abebe Andualem
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.