Ethiopia: Talkline - A lifeline for people concerned about HIV/AIDS (February 2006)


In countries where health care infrastructure is scarce, creative steps for addressing HIV/AIDS can be critical. With support from PEPFAR, in March 2005, Ethiopia's first national, toll-free number, the Wegen HIV/AIDS Talkline, was officially activated to support the united HIV/AIDS response. The service reported that 363,970 callers from all over Ethiopia utilized it within its first nine months, of whom 11 percent sought and received counseling, 84 percent information, and 5 percent referral to clinical, psychological, financial and social support services.

Talkline provides a confidential and accessible avenue for up-to-date and accurate information and services to reach the general population, including those infected with and affected by HIV. Callers now have access to information on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis. In many cases, this is their only reliable means for information or discussing sensitive, personal issues in a confidential manner.

A 27 year-old HIV-positive male in a rural location far from Addis Ababa has called Talkline regularly. It has been three years since the client discovered his HIV-positive status, but he has struggled to come to terms with it. He had declined to access other HIV services because he feared people would stigmatize him. Over the course of numerous calls to Talkline, the client developed a trusting relationship with a counselor, who provided clear and practical information on living with HIV/AIDS and eventually referred him to HIV services in the medical system. The client continues to rely on his counselor for psychosocial support and is preparing to initiate antiretroviral treatment - something that would likely not have happened if Talkline had not been there for him.


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