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Ringing in the New Year with an HIV message

Mobile phones are increasingly being used as tools for humanitarians
(Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN)

The Ethiopian government is using modern technology and the country’s New Year celebrations as an opportunity to encourage citizens and their families to get tested for HIV.

“New Year, new life! Test for HIV, test with your partner, get your children tested and brighten the future of your family! Free testing. Happy New Year!” reads the text message sent to subscribers of the national telecommunication provider, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation, by the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO), ahead of Ethiopian New Year celebrations, which start on 11 September.

Ethiopia follows a unique calendar, seven years behind the standard Gregorian system. The year has 13 months.

“HAPCO wanted to encourage everybody to know their status; the idea is to promote the testing so that people are aware of it,” said Feleke Dana Tanga, HAPCO monitoring and evaluation team leader.

An AIDS activist, who requested anonymity, said the campaign was a welcome step, but noted that Ethiopia still suffered from stigma as a major hindrance to testing.

“It’s not enough just to offer free testing, more needs to be done on discrimination - at the moment people will think if you go to get tested you have the disease,” he said. “Also, the message does not give details about where you can go to get tested.”

Ethiopia has an HIV prevalence of 2.1 percent; an estimated 2.3 million people test for HIV every year in more than 1,000 testing centres countrywide.


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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