Ethiopia Network for HIV/AIDS Treatment, Care, & Support: Our Impact

{Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}Photo Credit: Warren Zelman

Each year, nearly 300,000 women die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Approximately 7.6 million children do not live to see their fifth birthday. Most of the major direct causes of maternal and child mortality are preventable. MSH's maternal and child health interventions begin before pregnancy, with integrated family planning and HIV services, and continue through the life of the child.

 {Photo credit: MSH}Meleakeselam Kahilayu at Teklehaimanot monastery, South Tigray, Ethiopia.Photo credit: MSH

Melakeselam Kalayu is a religious leader who has been conducting baptisms for 15 years at Teklehaimanot Monastery in southern Tigray, Ethiopia. Throughout this time, Kalayu had prohibited people from taking any medications while using holy water at the monastery. Among the thousands of visitors to the monastery every day, many are people living with HIV (PLHIV). In response to Kalayu's teaching, many stopped their antiretroviral therapy (ART) while using holy water at the monastery.

The four-year Ethiopia Network for HIV/AIDS Treatment, Care, and Support (ENHAT-CS) project held its end-of-project conference in December in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and announced its notable achievements in the two regions where it operated – Amhara and Tigray.

 {Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.}Merigeta says he is "now alive and healthy" thanks to the teaching of a religious leader trained by ENHAT-CS.Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.

“I was angry at life! I was too weak to work; I couldn’t even feed myself. When I took my [antiretroviral] medicine on an empty stomach, it gave me stomach pains. So I decided to quit the medicine and instead go to a monastery and use holy water,” says Merigeta.

 {Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.}Religious leaders privately counsel HIV patients outside Teklehaimanot Monastery.Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.

When Berhe Menaso’s wife passed away seven years back, he was faced with the challenge of raising their eight children by himself. But he was sick and too weak to work on his small farm at the time, and his youngest daughter, then only 3 years old, was also very sick. So one early morning he woke his daughter and they went together to the hospital for a checkup. They learned that they were both HIV positive. Based on the advice given to him at the health center, he then brought his seven older children to the hospital for HIV testing and found that they were all HIV negative.

 {Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.}Teberih Tsegay, Almaz Haile, Jember Alemayehu, and Yeshi Derebew, of Korem Town, Ethiopia.Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.

"Some years back there was no one to teach us, so we gave birth to HIV-positive children. But now we can teach others so no child will be born with the virus," says Jember, a mother mentor at Korem Health Center in Tigray, Ethiopia. Four HIV-positive women, Teberih Tsegay, Almaz Haile, Jember Alemayehu, and Yeshi Derebew, envisioning that no child be born with HIV in their town, started to work as mother mentors at Korem Health Center to achieve their vision.

 {Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.}Genfo, an Ethiopian porridge especially prepared for women to help them recover after delivering a baby.Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.

In Ethiopia, pregnant women eagerly await the traditional birth ceremony accompanying their delivery as much as they wait for their baby. In anticipation of the birth, the expectant mother and her friends celebrate together: dancing special dances and tasting distinctive foods that the mother will eat after her baby is born, such as genfo, an Ethiopian porridge. During delivery, the mother’s friends and family prepare a coffee ceremony, burn incense, and make genfo.

 {Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.}Aba Gebrekidan visiting Miliat and her family.Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH.

“How can a person go into the sea, and come out without getting wet?” asks Likebirihanat Aba Gebrekidan Gebregiorgis during a training of religious leaders in August 2012, held in Tigray, Ethiopia. His question refers to his belief that medical treatment and divine intervention together can ensure a healthy child is born to HIV-positive parents.

{Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH}Photo credit: Genaye Eshetu/MSH

Living with her unemployed husband, 10-month-old son, and 8-year-old HIV-positive daughter, Mearg felt that life was hopeless before joining a Mothers' Support Group (MSG) at Korem Health Center in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. But membership in the MSG, complemented by participation in her community’s association for people living with HIV, helped her regain self-esteem.

Seid Eshetu, 38, is a father of two children aged 7 and 10, living in Tehuledere Woreda of Amhara, Ethiopia. Seid visited Haik Health Center a year ago because of regular coughing and general weakness. His community-based health extension workers advised him to be tested for HIV.Seid was shocked to learn that he was HIV positive.