South Sudan government to scale up HIV awareness campaign

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April 18, 2011 (JUBA) – Across the ten states of South Sudan 116,000 people have been affected by the incurable disease, according to the findings reported to the Council of Ministers on Friday by the region’s vice president, Riek Machar, who was also assisted by the chairperson of the independent HIV/AIDS commission.

South Sudan, which emerged out of the 21 years of civil war six years ago, has to fight yet another deadly front against HIV/AIDS which officials in the region say threatens the health of its population.

The UN estimated the adult prevalence rate of HIV in 2009 in Sudan to be 1.1%; 43rd highest in the world.

According to a press statement issued by the official spokesperson and minister of information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, it is crucial that public awareness about the disease is increased. Western Equatoria state was reported to have been affected with the highest number of patients, followed by Central Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states.

The commission said the fight against the disease has not been effective because of financial constraints. The level of awareness created among the populous in the region, which has a low literacy rate, has not also been sufficient.

The commission planned to treat over 46,000 people while it has currently put under treatment care only 2,600. Over 3,000 orphans have also been identified to have lost their parents due to the disease.

The cabinet meeting chaired by president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, after deliberating on the report, has approved over SDG34 million (US$12.7 million) to the HIV/AIDS commission to scale up the awareness campaign in the region, establish more counselling and testing centres as well as to try to provide medical care to the patients.

South Sudan will also send a delegation to a conference on HIV/AIDS which will take place in New York from 8-10 June 2011 in order to solicit more international support on the fight against the killer disease.