Quarter of Ethiopia AIDS patients have stopped drugs
Tue 24 Jun 2008ADDIS ABABA - Over a quarter of Ethiopia's HIV/AIDS patients on drugs are not taking their medicine because of logistical problems but also due to religious beliefs, the head of a treatment body said on Tuesday.
Over 40,000 of Ethiopia's 156,360 HIV/AIDS patients on the life-prolonging medication have discontinued treatment "due to problems of transportation to hospitals," said Dr Ygeremu Abebe, the director of the Clinton Foundation in Ethiopia.
Some however stopped taking the anti-retroviral medicine on the prompting of religious leaders who encouraged them to take "holy water" instead, he said.
"Lack of awareness of serious health problem for patients who discontinue treatment could also be considered a reason," Ygeremu told a workshop on the disease.
Some 20 percent of 7,000 children with the illness have also stopped medication, he said.
Last year, the head of Ethiopia's Orthodox Church told about 5,000 faithful, most of who were infected, that they should combine the free drugs -- provided under U.S. President George W. Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- with the holy water.
With more than 1.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, Ethiopia is one of the countries in the world most affected by the epidemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Over a million adults and children have died in Ethiopia in the last two decades from AIDS.
Infections in the country are predominantly in urban areas but have in the last several years spread to rural centres all over the country, where 85 percent of Ethiopia's 81 million people live, according to WHO.
http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_2345952,00.html News24, South Africa June 24, 2008
Pirates kidnap four touristsMogadishu - Pirates kidnapped four foreign tourists, including a woman and a child, who were sailing off the coast of Somalia's northern region of Puntland, said officials on Tuesday.
The four, whose identities were not immediately clear, were seized on Monday near the coastal town of Lasqorey, Puntland senior presidential adviser Bile Mohamoud Qabowsade said.
"They were four tourists - two men, a woman and a child. They were taken by pirates after they came close to the coastal area and we are trying to trace them by deploying our forces around the area," he said.
http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=78882 IRIN/PlusNews 23 June 2008
ETHIOPIA: Rising food prices hit HIV-positive people
ADDIS ABABA - Whenever Bellatu Bakane goes to her local market in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, she can't help but feel frustrated.
"I get angry because every time I go food prices are higher," said the 38-year old mother of three. "Because food prices are increasing, we are eating less."
Many Ethiopians are skipping meals and cutting out "luxuries" like vegetables and eggs as the combination of drought and rising food prices squeezes already tight budgets.
But for Bakane that's particularly dangerous; two-years ago she tested positive for HIV and began taking life-prolonging antiretrovirals.
If her diet is too poor, her health could soon deteriorate. "ART [antiretroviral treatment] can't work if people aren't eating enough; this is where food prices impact more strongly on them," said Gideon Cohen, coordinator of a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) feeding initiative for urban Ethiopians living with the virus.
Poor nutrition weakens the body's defences against the virus, hastens the development of HIV into AIDS, and makes it difficult to take ARVs.
ART can also increase appetite and it is possible to reduce some side effects and promote adherence to ARV regimens if the medicines are taken with food, according to health officials.
As food prices continue to soar, Ethiopians with HIV are especially hard hit; they may be weak and unable to work, they often have less savings, and they may also have been shunned by the community.
Bakane's sisters, who live in the same neighbourhood, won't give her the support that Ethiopian families often provide to each other in hard times. When she goes to the local government office to receive food assistance, officials treat her coldly.
"My sisters and neighbours don't talk to me because I'm HIV-positive," she said. "I could never go to my family for help."
So far, the medicines have kept her healthy enough to bake and sell injera, a spongy bread, an Ethiopian staple, made of a local grain called teff, at an outdoor market where she earns about five Ethiopian birr (US$0.52) a day.
But that's not enough to feed her children as well as a school-age niece and half-sister who live with her.
Drought another factor
Food prices have risen by 40 percent in the past year, according to the country's Central Statistical Agency, but some staples have risen much faster. Balkan says a kilogramme of wheat that cost her 2.25 birr ($0.23) last year now sets her back 6.50 birr ($0.68).
Fikirte Tshomay's doctor told her to stop breastfeeding her eight-month old son to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, and give him cow's milk instead, but this is an economic impossibility.
Her husband, a soldier, died from an AIDS-related illness before the baby was born, leaving her and the child to survive on a monthly pension of 265 birr ($27.60), but the milk alone would cost her 196 birr a month.
Tshomay is feeding him a blend of corn and soybean flour designed for malnourished children, known locally as Famex. "It's not enough," she said.
Both Balkan and Tshomay get help from the WFP, which gives each woman a monthly ration of about 40kg of wheat, two litres of cooking oil, and a small sack of beans. It doesn't cover all their family's needs, but it helps.
WFP's programme helps feed 111,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and their family members, Cohen told IRIN/PlusNews, but the global food crisis has complicated plans to expand the initiative to reach an additional 43,000 people over the next three years.
The severity of the drought has affected 4.6 million people, and also means the UN and other aid agencies cannot buy food on local markets, while rocketing global food prices have stretched their budgets - WFP's HIV/AIDS feeding programme in Ethiopia is already 44 percent over budget and has had to borrow from other UN programmes.
Nearly eight percent of Ethiopia's urban population is HIV positive, and even those receiving aid have been forced to make difficult choices.
"I can't provide enough food for the family," said Sirkalem Yiffa, 30, a mother of two who learned she was HIV positive three years ago. "I'm also worried about getting enough food for myself to take the antiretrovirals."