Ethiopia: Festival Includes Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing: Ethiopian Couples Receive the Gift of Knowledge (November 2009)


When Damte Lemi and Genet Teka first heard about HIV counseling and testing, they were uneasy about learning their status. But their hesitation was alleviated when they visited this year's Erecha Festival - an annual cultural and religious event in Debre Ziet that celebrates the first harvest of the Ethiopian Spring.

At the festival, which draws 300,000 Ethiopians from different parts of the country, the couple saw signs announcing mobile HIV counseling and testing centers.

"When we saw the announcement, we immediately decided to take the advantage of the free service," said Damte. "We are heading to marriage and we are now happy we took the test."

The mobile center they visited was supported by the Organization for Social Services for AIDS (OSSA), a local organization that receives support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Damte and Genet were two of more than 400 people that received voluntary HIV counseling and testing center during the two-day festival.

Shemeles Feye and Kelemuawa Lemu are another couple that visited one of the mobile testing sites set up at the festival. Married for two years, the couple traveled 70 kilometers to take part in the festivities, and while there decided to receive voluntary HIV counseling and testing.

"Initially we didn't know there was free HIV testing, but we feel fortunate to get tested," Kelemuawa said.

"We have been married for two years and we want to spend our future lives without fear," Shemeles added.


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