US helping to combat HIV/AIDS in the military

The US has launched a campaign to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases in the Ethiopian military, it was announced on Tuesday.

It will donate some 2.8 million Ethiopian birr [about US $325,000] to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in the armed forces. The five year prevention and control programme will be
carried out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), working alongside the National Defence Forces of Ethiopia (NDFE).

The agreement was signed on Saturday by US ambassador Aurelia Brazeal, CDC head Dr Tadesse Wuhib, and Head of Administration and Finance of the Ethiopian Defence Ministry, Major-General Haile Tilahun.

A spokesman for the US embassy said that a peer system will also be used where soldiers will help train each other in combating the virus.

Ethiopia has one of the worst HIV/AIDS problems in the world and so far the virus has orphaned one million children. Infection rates are particularly high in areas where soldiers are based. The virus is then further spread as soldiers return to their home towns or villages.

“The financial and technical assistance provided by CDC under this agreement will be used to establish voluntary counselling and testing services in military hospitals at Harar and Mekele for soldiers, their families, and other civilians," said a statement released by the US embassy.

“Assistance will also be given to implement a behavioural change communication strategy through peer leadership training to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS among soldiers in the south and along the
Ethio-Djibouti transportation corridor," the statement added.