Spotlight on Global Health Initiative Plus Countries: Ethiopia

Spotlight on Global Health Initiative Plus Countries: Ethiopia

With the announcement of the “GHI Plus” countries, we have a major opportunity to move the gender agenda beyond the rhetoric.  The new guidelines clearly show that this issue is not only important, but also one of the major pillars for global health. The mandate has been given and the challenge now is to build on this legitimacy that has been hard earned and continue to seek opportunities, design interventions, and diligently document best practices. In Ethiopia, issues of gender fuel the HIV & AIDS epidemic. Women are disproportionately infected by HIV here because they are more vulnerable to the virus than men due to their lower social status and lack of knowledge or control in sexual situations. Women play a central role in their families and communities. We must empower women to control their own health so they can have a significant impact on their family’s health and their communities’ health. I work on the HIV/AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP), funded by the US Agency for International Development and managed by MSH. HCSP has trained 600 outreach workers from local nongovernmental organizations, mostly local women, to take HIV & AIDS services outside the clinic to where women work and live.  A majority of the outreach workers are women who go house-to-house supporting individuals and families infected and affected by HIV & AIDS. They serve as advocates, connecting them to health centers for HIV and other primary care services. Watch this video about Kidest, an outreach worker we trained. As the US Government looks to focus on Ethiopia as a learning lab and to integrate gender awareness and gender sensitivity into its programs, gender sensitivity and quality of care will need to go hand in hand and not be a parallel endeavor. Mainstreaming gender to achieve equity is a long-term process which requires the transformation in the norms and values of people. Programs such as HCSP show that it is possible to accelerate the process through interventions which demonstrate a positive impact for everyone—in our case, the family, the community, and even the health center.  These interventions may be small or large in scope, but should be specific and measurable in order to see the benefits of gender mainstreaming. Dr. Belkis Giorgis is the NGO Capacity Building and Gender Advisor on the HIV/AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP). The HIV/AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP), funded by the US Agency for International Development, represents the largest national expansion of HIV & AIDS services at the community and health center levels in Ethiopia.

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