- A quarter of Ethiopia's HIV/AIDS patients have pulled out on antiretroviral treatment (ART) in the country, blaming logistical problems and religious beliefs as cause for withdrawal, the National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO) said.
HAPCO representative Desalegn Tesfay said over 40,000 of the country's 156,360 patients enrolled for antiretroviral treatment have suddenly decided to discontinue the treatment due to various reasons, saying even 1,400 of 7,000 HIV positive children, who originally were within the programme, have also discontinued the therapy.
Clinton Foundation director, Yigerem Abebe, in a statement said transportation to hospitals, unstable residential status, lack of knowledge and religious and traditional pressures are major driving forces behind patient's withdrawal in antiretroviral treatment programme.
The head of Ethiopia's Orthodox Church told about 5,000 congregation members last year that they should combine drugs provided under US President George W. Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief with the holy water. Many pulling out of the programme are believed to rely only on the "holy water" provided by the church.
Ethiopia has been battling to control the AIDS epidemic since the first case was reported in the early 1980's in the country. The World Health Organisation's (WHO) latest report says over 1.7 million Ethiopians live with the deadly HIV virus, being among the countries with the world's highest HIV infection.
WHO said infections in the country are primarily concentrated in urban areas but have in the last several years spread to rural areas, where over 85 percent of Ethiopia's population lives.
Hundreds of thousand Ethiopians have died in the past two decades from AIDS. More challenges lie ahead in Ethiopia to curb the spread of AIDS especially in the remote rural areas of the country where relatively there is less awareness but high risk.
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