Musicians join politicians to fight HIV/AIDS

Top Ethiopian musicians joined hundreds of politicians on Thursday to launch their own charity song with inspiration from the United Kingdom’s Band Aid success, organised by famed musician Bob Geldof.

The artists and 500 parliamentarians performed an anti-AIDS song called "Find a Solution", which they hope will help to end stigma in the country. The idea of the charity song came from the National Coalition for Women Against HIV/AIDS, a local anti-AIDS charity group headed by prominent women in the country.

Azeb Mesfin, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s wife and one of the founding coalition members, said she hoped the song would raise awareness.

She told PlusNews that songs are a traditional African way of informing communities, and the piece will be sung across the country to warn of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

"The song is very important for the mobilisation of the population about HIV/AIDS," Azeb said after the launch. "It is especially good for raising awareness and increasing people’s consciousness about the disease. We hope that people will be able to sing the song in their communities as they go about their daily chores to help people discuss HIV/AIDS openly."

In 1984, Geldof brought together a number of the world’s most famous artists under the name Band Aid. They recorded a charity song to raise money for victims of famine in Ethiopia. On Sunday, he was joined by about 40 leading names, like Robbie Williams and Dido, for a fresh version of 1984’s number one hit, "Do They Know it’s Christmas?", to raise support for the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Top Ethiopian hip-hop singer Abdu Kiar told PlusNews: "If we have anything like their success we will be happy. They are an inspiration, but we Ethiopians must also show what we can do."

He added: "Often people do not pay attention to politicians so artists and singers can have a big impact in raising awareness and informing people."

Among the stars taking part in the anti-AIDS song, which was sung in the country’s parliament, were Menlik Wosenachew, Alemayhu Eshete, Tamirat Molla and Nini. The MPs included Minister of Education Genet Zewdie and the Minister for Information Netsannet Asfaw. The speaker of the house, Dawit Yohannes, also took part.

More than 6,500 Africans die every day from AIDS, while 8,000 new people are infected daily, according to UNAIDS. In Ethiopia, 2.2 million people are infected and the virus has orphaned one million children.

The song, which is in the national tongue Amharic, calls for the country to "mobilise and battle" against HIV. Haileeyeseus Adamu, from the National Coalition, said it will be used to raise awareness in the country rather than being sold to raise funds like the Band Aid song did. It will be played on state television and radio.