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UN initiative targets HIV/AIDS among soldiers

The training of HIV/AIDS educators for the Ethiopian army, launched on Monday, is part of a broader initiative by the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) with the armies of both countries and the UN military contingent, which started in mid-July, an official told IRIN on Thursday.

With support from UNAIDS, a similar initiative is to be launched for soldiers in Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo. "UNMEE has taken a special interest in HIV/AIDS, alongside child protection, gender and peace-keeping issues. We are targeting behavioural change. In Eritrea, the training has been going on well since July. We are just starting with Ethiopia," said Lt-Col Michael Munyoki, UNMEE training officer. Soldiers of the Eritrea army and troops from the various countries who form the UN mission have developed anti-HIV/AIDS action plans led by peer trainers.

The training activities are part of a new requirement by the UN that wherever it has a military establishment, a task force on HIV/AIDS be set up to plan for the prevention and control of the disease. The training in Ethiopia, attended by 24 soldiers and two UNMEE staff, and which ends on 27 October, will create the initial cadre of peer trainers to lead other members of the armed forces in developing anti-HIV/AIDS action plans.

The armies in Ethiopia and Eritrea face a risk of infection from the disease, UNMEE believes. So far, two to three percent of Eritrea's population and five percent of Ethiopia's are estimated to be infected by HIV/AIDS.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was planning to intensify awareness-raising activities against the disease, the patriarch, Abune Paulos, said on Wednesday. The pro-government Walta Information Centre quoted him as telling the 20th assembly of 38 dioceses to speak out about HIV/AIDS at every opportunity in order to bring about behavioural change, especially among the youth.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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