OPINION — This short note serves to remind our leadership in Juba that AIDS is still leading cause of death in Africa. President Kiir and his government have to address this and continuing to fight against HIV/AIDS to win the battle. Our Country is losing young and energetic youth at this front against the HIV/AIDS.
As we are commemorating Martyrs’ Day tomorrow on July 30, to remember 2.5 million people who died during the liberation struggle of South Sudan; my message to South Sudan government and president Kiir in particular is that HIV epidemic is not over – We are still lossing more human capital to HIV/AIDS. Most of our people including the top government and high ranking military officials are dying of AIDS in Juba and neighbouring countries because of the fear of stigmatization and discrimination.
They are refusing to go to hospital to recieve medicine. As government, there is a need to fight negative attitudes and abuse directed at people living with HIV and AIDS. Sensitisation of population from HIV/AIDS is crucial. The population should be encouraged to visit the HIV testing centres across the country. The old People ages 50 and above should also be encouraged to go for test because some of them may not recognize HIV symptoms in themselves.They think that what they are feeling and experiencing is part of normal aging.
As of 2005, after signing the Comprehensive peace agreement( CPA) between Khartoum and Juba, almost 95 percent of South Sudanese refugees returned to their home of origin ( South Sudan) from neighbouring countries, facilitated through the office of United Nations High commissioner for Refugee( UNHCR)As the returnees coming from these infected areas, they would intermingle with the people in their new areas.In this case, we should acknowledge the potential risks of an increase in HIV infections in South Sudan.
2013 political crisis in South Sudan.
2013 war made it worse, the HIV spreads rapidly in the whole country. While it is true that conflict-affected populations and refugees are at greater risk of HIV infection – because of sexual violence and disruption of health services. As of now, South Sudan’s Armed Forces ( SSPDF) and other servicemembers are being affected most.
In 2013, report suggested that the HIV prevalence rates in Several SPLA armed forces were high. Almost 5 percent diagnosed with HIV annually and the rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections among servicemembers tested is increasing on daily basis as of now.
Why are we silence ? When we know that Some of us including government officials, old and young, rich and poor are dying of AIDS and others infected with HIV are currently suffering in silence than tell friends or families about their illness. From independence time up to now, should we continue as government to be in a weak position, putting lest efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the country? We need to come out openly and speak up to save this generation.
The issue of stigma and discrimination also make our people vulnerable to HIV. much effort is needed to know that every time AIDS has been defeated, it has been because of trust, openness, dialogue between government, individuals and communities, family support, human solidarity, and the human perseverance to find new paths.
If we don’t focus, HIV/AIDS will continue to affects economic growth by reducing the availability of human capital. Without proper prevention, nutrition, health care and medicine that is available, large numbers of people are falling victim to AIDS.
Across the country, government should prioritize HIV prevention programs targeted to populations at risk; disseminating educational resources and messages on HIV risks and prevention; educating health care professionals about evidence-based HIV.
HIV/AIDS, is considered by some authors a global pandemic. As of 2018, approximately 37.9 million people are infected with HIV globally. There were about 770,000 deaths from AIDS in 2018.
The author is the deputy chief of staff for administration and finance of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A).
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