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ETHIOPIA: Gov't scales up antiretroviral roll-outNAIROBI, 6 March 2006 (IRIN) - The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has announced that it will provide free antiretroviral therapy (ART) and treatment of opportunistic infections for 58,000 HIV-positive people until the beginning of July.
The ministry said on Friday that some 23,000 people had already benefited from free ART provision since January 2005. At least 1.5 million people in Ethiopia are currently living with the HI virus, according to UN estimates.
"The number of beneficiaries [of ART] will reach 58,000 people at the end of the current Ethiopian budget year," Ahmed Imano, press officer at the ministry, told the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency.
Ahmed said some 245,000 people across the country were in need of ART, and added that the government planned to provide the treatment to 100,000 patients by December 2006, increasing that number to 200,000 by August 2008.
The ministry noted that since the beginning of the year, 126 hospitals had been equipped with Voluntary HIV/AIDS Counselling and Testing and services for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of the virus.
Around half of Ethiopia's 77 million people have no easy access to health facilities, according to government and UN figures. The Horn of Africa country has an HIV prevalence rate of 4.4 percent, and at least 900,000 people have died from the pandemic since 1986.
Ethiopia is one of 15 countries targeted by US President George W Bush's US $15 billion-emergency plan for HIV/AIDS relief. The US spent $43 million in the country in 2004 on anti-AIDS activities, and a further $61 million was earmarked for 2005, half of which was to be used to purchase antiretroviral drugs.
The Ethiopian government estimates that it needs $19 billion to overcome HIV/AIDS in the next decade.