By Wossen Mulatu
27 January 2015: UNICEF Chad’s Youth Advocate, 16 year old Mani Virgille Djelassem, and UNICEF Ethiopia Supporter- Tommy T. Gobena visited the Addis Ketema Youth Centre and its HIV prevention activities today.
The Chadian National Council for the fight against AIDS, in collaboration with UNICEF Chad, nominated the 16-year-old Mani as a National Youth Advocate to intensify the communications activities around the issue of HIV/ AIDS among youth and adolescents. Her appointment was officially presented by the First Lady of Chad, Mrs Hinda Deby, during the celebration of World AIDS Day on 1st December last year.
Tommy T. Gobena, a bass player in ‘Gogol Bordello’- a renowned international rock band- has been closely working with UNICEF in conveying messages on HIV/AIDS prevention. Tommy’s public service announcement (PSA) entitled “Your life; Your decision” produced by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and UNAIDS has received extensive public viewers and positive feedback on social media after its release on World AIDS Day last year.
Tommy believes that ignorance about the disease is a great enemy. “Education and knowledge should be a big part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. HIV is now a treatable medical condition. Through providing the necessary information, we can reduce HIV prevention as well as the stigma attached to it.”
The duo observed the Addis Ketema Youth Centre’s youth activities, including the library, cafeteria, Voluntary Counseling and Testing and game centres, and met with young beneficiaries. While discussing the issue of HIV/AIDS, Tommy and Mani highly encouraged them to get tested and know their HIV status as early as possible.
”The sooner you know your HIV status, the more options there are available to you.” said Mani.
“You can prevent infection to others if you find out you are HIV positive and you can seek medical care early and live a healthy life. If you test negative, you can continue to protect yourself from the virus by avoiding risky sexual behaviour,” reiterated Tommy.
Tommy and Mani also had the opportunity to meet with the Director of the Disease Prevention and Control Directorate at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Mahlet Kifle, and the HIV Team Coordinator, Dr Frehiwot Nigatu.
“I highly encourage adolescents in Ethiopia to be a champion for change and share their knowledge about HIV with each other.” said Mani.
Dr. Mahlet Kifle on her part said, “In order to prevent the prevalence of the HIV virus among adolescents and young people, the appointment of such committed advocates is key. Likewise, we will do all the needful to support and work together with such champions for HIV prevention in Ethiopia by also taking the example of Chad.”
In Ethiopia, the prevalence of HIV in terms of percentage of the population is low compared to other African countries. In 2011, 1.5 per cent of the population between the age 15 and 49 was HIV positive. In 2005, this rate was 1.4 per cent. However, taking into account the large population, the absolute numbers of people infected with HIV is high. Young people are often at a greater risk to become infected with HIV. They may have shorter relationship spans and therefore more sexual partners, or they may engage in risky sexual practices. Girls face a higher risk of HIV infection than boys.
In 2011 DHS report, 0.2 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) were HIV positive compared to 0 per cent of boys. This rate has declined since 2005, when this rate was 0.7 per cent of girls and 0.1 per cent of boys.