Little Negligence Breeds Great Nuisance

These past few weeks, both the social and mainstream media of the country have been busy with breaking news. There was the resignation of Abadula Gemeda as speaker of the parliament, the devaluation of the Birr by 15pc against a basket of major international currencies, and Bereket Simon departing from his post as an advisor to the Prime Minister in charge of Policy Studies & Research Centre. Absorbed by these issues, the nation has turned a deaf ear to other important ones. And that silence appears to be the cause.

Over 722,000 people will be living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Ethiopia, as of 2017, according to the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention & Control Office (FHAPCO), while the prevalence rate is estimated to be about 1.1pc. What is worrying about the statistics is that the virus is highly prevalent in areas of urban concentration, standing at 5.1pc, and amongst the younger generation.

The youth are the backbone of society, and hence they determine the future of any given country. A nation that fails to invest in them, in essence, is doomed.

Most youngsters join higher learning institutions with the utmost energy, hope, dreams, enthusiasm and the will to be successful. However, coupled with their adventurous nature that is a significant feature of their age group, the obstacles start at the doorstep of the colleges and universities they attend. It is a well-known fact that Addis Abeba is an urban city where one can find a kindergarten not far away from a pub, a pool house, a khat retail shop or other establishments that are unsuitable for the psychological well-being of youngsters.

The most unpleasant practices by students, as reported by many universities, is drinking alcohol, unsafe sex, and chewing khat. Peer pressure was mentioned as the primary driving factor that leads to such problems. As evidenced by different studies, awareness of HIV by students in universities and colleges is good. But it is their attitude and sexual practices that need instructing.

Chewing khat has become a common practice among the youth and, as of late, among university students. This is because the stimulant is believed to help one study late into the night and to cope with stress. It is also assumed that taking alcohol after chewing khat will reduce its effect. There will also be cigarette smoking and the use of other drugs.

The other contributing factor that has been ignored so far by both parents and the academic community is the case of students residing outside their campus in rented houses. Families should be aware of the behaviour of their children and have to make sure that the hard-earned money they are sending is well spent. They have to unequivocally inform their offsprings that, as students, they must reside on campus.

There is a lack of discussion between parents and institutions which goes as far as parents being unable to find out when their children were academically dismissed. Living off campus in these cases would lead into a dangerous world, where the youth would be forced to look for ways either to make some money or to kill their boredom.

HIV was first detected in Ethiopia in 1984, and the first acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) case was reported in 1986. Now, three decades later, the impact of the illness continues to be a tremendous socio-economic challenge for the country. In the first couple of decades, the nation’s coordinated response to the epidemic was successful and achieved considerable results. The contribution by those infected with the virus should not be forgotten. Several local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), artists, radio shows have also been of great help in the fight against the disease by participating in awareness creation programs.

However, it seems that the nation has become a victim of its success. The decline of AIDS-related deaths with access to antiretroviral drugs over the years created the impression that the virus is under control.

But the statistics testify. The number of patients diagnosed with the disease has only increased. It is naive to remind the government that the fight against the epidemic is tantamount to protect the youth from the spread of the virus. However, it is equally vital to assume individual responsibilities at every level. It is a sign of moral decay to, for instance, rent hotel rooms or guest houses to students wearing a uniform or to turn a blind eye to those that are openly smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol.

Although there are laws that oblige breweries to announce that beer should not be served to those under 18, which most of them do, it is doubtful they mean it. The slick and expensive commercials they run on TV, are an antithesis to any intentions of discouraging the youth from drinking. There are proven associations between exposure to alcohol advertising and drinking behaviour in cross-sectional surveys. The only way this effect could be minimised is by bringing about stronger marketing regulations.

Thus, it is high time to break the silence and engage in awareness creation programs with the coordinated effort of artists, radio talk shows, and TV dramas. More access should be given to people living with the virus and other stakeholders to share their experiences and change the misconception to combat HIV/AIDS. Last but not least, there is a need to implement policies that would allow NGO’s to better engage in the effort to fight yet another national enemy. Otherwise, a little negligence may breed great trouble.

By Abraham Negussie
Abraham Negussie ( is a public relations and communication officer at Awash Bank. He has a blog called - ''. The writer would like to humbly reiterate that the viewpoint is his personal reflection.

Published on Oct 28,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 913]



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