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Ethiopian community tackles HIV and Aids.

The Ethiopian immigrant community living in Yemen has launched an action plan to combat the risks of the incurable HIV and Aids disease among its population. World Aids Day was held globally last month and the Ethiopian community commemorated those who have died of this disease with a candle lighting gathering. This event was the culmination of three-day HIV and Aids awareness workshop held at the Ethiopian Community Center in Sana'a. Wondimu Regaa, an Ethiopian who is the HIV and Aids program coordinator with the British-funded non-governmental organisation Progressio, is one of the campaign's pioneers. Progressio and the Ethiopian embassy partnered to host the awareness training for 22 representatives from a range of Ethiopian community groups in Yemen. Regaa said they invited community group leaders who could "support us to reach persons in their development associations". "This is the first time that we are doing this. We want to continue raising awareness to protect our society living here. When Ethiopians live abroad they have more freedom than at home where there are social controls. They need information on HIV and Aids so that they can protect themselves," said Regaa. "We are all at risk of HIV. Most of our people living here are between the ages 15 and 49 and this is globally known as the most vulnerable age group." He said that they have also contacted service providers who could assist Ethiopians with HIV tests and Aids treatment if required. "We are giving them the information on where they can get these services confidentially," said Regaa. He said their work to combat HIV and Aids is part of a project supported by the European Union in Sana'a, Hodeida and Aden. Endale Gebreyes, the Ethiopian Community Center manager, said that Ethiopians approached the center with various concerns. It was soon apparent that HIV and Aids training was necessary as information about this disease was not widely available in Yemen. "We need to help them. We want to create a peer-to-peer sharing of information so that we can reach all our citizens. We plan to host a bigger event where we can interact with other immigrant communities. We all have community centers and we can organize some events," said Gebreyes. Amdemichael Admassu Gelaye, in charge of community affairs at the Ethiopian embassy in Yemen, said that the Ethiopian community totaled about 15,000 persons. "We don't have statistics on how many Ethiopians in Yemen has HIV or Aids but it is part of our national program to inform our citizens about this disease. We are mainstreaming HIV and Aids in every media in Ethiopia. People living in Yemen don't have access to this information and that's why we want to provide it," said Gelaye. Sani Red Wan and Yewubdar Balcha from the Oromia Social Development Association said their organization would hold seminars on HIV and Aids. Wan said they held monthly meetings and would "transfer this information to our people". "The main ways to distribute these ideas is through community associations," said Wan. Balcha said that she would talk to other women particularly as she has regular contact with them. Nebyiou Belete from the Amhara Development Association said that they were all "looking at solutions to solve HIV and Aids". "We have more than 100 people in our association. Our plan is to get groups together to be educated about HIV and Aids. We need more courses and motivation so that our people can know more about this disease," he said. Beserat Negussa, a midwife at Saba'een Hospital in Sana'a, said that it was the first time that she attended a workshop on HIV and Aids. "I finished my studies five months ago and I don't know about HIV and Aids. Ethiopians don't have a place where we can go to know about things like this. I only know about it from the Internet. I don't have deep knowledge about it," she said. "To be a midwife is a big responsibility. We are connected with blood in our work. I must know about this disease. Every person who works in a hospital or clinic who is contact with blood must know about this."

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Jan 6, 2011
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