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Objective: To make a preliminary assessment of HIV/AIDS risk among the Hamar and other ethnic groups in South Omo Zone.
Methods: This broadly based anthropological study is based on more than three decades of field study experience within South Omo Zone. It involves various research methods ranging from in-depth, tape-recorded interviews to films, and focuses mainly on the Hamar area.
Results: The completion of an all-weather road to the South Omo region in the early 1980s resulted in, among other things, the arrival of many people from other parts of Ethiopia. Along with the increased urbanization came alcoholism, commercial sex, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Although no HIV surveys have yet been carried out, there is increasing evidence that the virus is spreading among Hamar and other ethnic groups. The author's intimate knowledge of the South Omo Zone and her tape-recorded conversations with Hamar men and women indicate the limited knowledge and concern about AIDS among the population.
Recommendations: Multidisciplinary survey teams urgently need to raise local awareness and knowledge of HIV/AIDS using culturally appropriate methods, and to identify and reduce high-risk behaviors to prevent the spread of the epidemic.