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 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 17:12 GMT
Woman's bid to break Aids cycle
Hirut Gedlu surrounded by the crowd as she arrives in Addis Ababa
Ms Gedlu hopes the HIV/Aids rate will stay under 5%

It is 1000 on Sunday morning, and a small crowd is waiting by the side of one of the main roads into Addis Ababa, the last leg of Hirut Gedlu's journey.

She is a little late and people begin to wonder where she is, but then she is spotted speeding down the hill.

I care, do you?

Slogan on Hirut Gedlu's bicycle
Wearing a red, green and yellow striped bandana on her head and riding on a battered mountain bike, this ex-soldier in her 30s appears like a modern-day messiah.

She has just finished a 2,500 kilometre journey across her country, on her bike, which took her to 280 places where she preached her anti-Aids message.

She stops, finally, at the end of her two and a half month journey, and beams as bunches of roses are thrust into to her hands. And then she speaks.

She tells the crowd, which is growing by the minute, where she has been and everyone is clearly impressed with the journey she has made.

Changing lives

And this must have been the impact that she had in the places she visited.

Not a four-wheel drive or a fancy poster in sight, just a woman on a bike. But did people really listen?

Hirut Gedlu is greeted with flowers in Addis Ababa
A modern-day messiah?

"Very much so. They were listening with such concentration that I believe I've changed their lives, particularly the students, and also in the markets," Hirut Gedlu says.

"I went there so that I could get hold of the farmers and others who come from far away to buy things in the market, so they could hear the message too.

"To the students I say how poor we are. We are so poor we can't afford to lose our youth.

"So I teach them to abstain from sex, hold on to their exercise books and be serious about their lessons.

Faithful

"The married ones in the market place, I tell them to be loyal to their partners.

"And I really do believe Aids will be eradicated from Ethiopia."

Hirut Gedlu on her bicycle in Addis Ababa
Many found Ms Gedlu's mission inspiring

With three million adults and a quarter of a million children living with HIV in Ethiopia, eradication may be a long way off.

The government and various NGOs have all got their programmes here, and while the efforts of just one person are not going to change the behaviour of millions of people, Hirut Gedlu's attitude was inspiring.

Written on the side of her bike was the slogan "I care, do you?".

A challenge to everyone.


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27 Jan 02 | Scotland
07 Dec 02 | Africa
22 Nov 02 | Country profiles
12 Nov 02 | Africa
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