Empowering Women for Better Health Outcomes in Ethiopia

Empowering Women for Better Health Outcomes in Ethiopia

Aberu Hailu and her HIV-Negative son.


Aberu Hailu is a 31 year old, mother of four living in Hidmo, Ethiopia a rural community 8 kilometers south east of Adigodum town in Tigray. Two years ago, she visited the Adigodum Health Center to be tested for HIV, a disease she had learned about through community health education. She discovered she was HIV-positive and informed her husband that he should be tested, but he refused.

Two months later, Aberu became pregnant and found herself in despair. She thought she would pass the virus on to her baby and she feared the stigma and discrimination she knew often came with a positive HIV status.

Aberu returned to the Adigodum Health Center and the HIV/AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP), a USAID-funded MSH-led health project, for help. Aberu learned that her baby could be protected from the virus with prevention of mother to child transmission services.

She joined the health center’s mother support group, where her fears of stigma and discrimination were minimized through the support of other women.

When Aberu went into labor, she was at home. A health extension worker, trained by HCSP, carried Aberu on a stretcher and began the several hours walk to the health center.  On the way, Aberu delivered her baby with the help of the worker. Aberu, having been well educated after her diagnosis, disclosed her HIV status and warned caregivers to avoid possible blood and fluid contamination. Aberu is now the proud mother of a nine-month old HIV-negative baby, Welde.

Effective prevention of mother to child transmission allows women like Aberu to take control of their own health and deliver healthy HIV-negative babies.

HCSP began providing comprehensive HIV & AIDS care at Adigodum Health Center three years ago. In the Ethiopian year 2002 (2009-2010), 1,011 pregnant women were tested for HIV at the health center and 27 HIV-positive pregnant women received appropriate treatment, care, and support after learning their status.

In order to stem Ethiopia's AIDS epidemic and treat those infected, HCSP is strengthening the health system and rapidly scaling up diagnostic and treatment services for HIV & AIDS and tuberculosis in five targeted regions. They are using a results-oriented strategic framework, a family-focused approach and performance-based contracting to meet their goals.