While progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS has been made, “it is not good enough, people are still dying,” says the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
Speaking at the World AIDS Day commemoration at the UN base in Juba, David Shearer, who is the Special Representative to the Secretary-General, says that while great strides have been made to test and treat people for HIV in South Sudan, there is still a lot that has to be done to combat the “disease that affects everybody, including children”.
“Let us make sure we do our bit so that we do not see new cases of AIDS and let us take the message far and wide,” said David Shearer.
The ongoing conflict in the young east African nation has made it difficult for the United Nations to provide adequate support and services to people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.
UN AIDS Country Director, Sophia Mukasa Monico, said that only 30,000 of the 200,000 South Sudanese diagnosed with the disease are receiving treatment. She added that due to the ongoing conflict, it is possible that there are more people living with the virus but have not been tested.
During the ceremony, UN peacekeepers held a candlelight vigil as a sign of hope, peace and solidarity. A charity race, a game of volleyball, football, cricket and tug-of-peace were also held.
Voluntary testing and counselling services were available throughout the day.
“I decided to test today to know my status and if I am positive then it is also good for me so that I can control myself,” said 39-year-old Taban Modi.
This year’s theme - Right to Health – aims to bring awareness to the fact that many people around the world, particularly people living with HIV, are being denied their right to health, which is a fundamental human right.
World AIDS is commemorated annually on 1 December. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV and to recommit to stand in solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS.