The South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar delivering his speech during the launching ceremony [©Gurtong]
By Waakhe Simon Wudu
JUBA, 29th September 2011 [Gurtong] - The South Sudan HIV/AIDS Commission, (SSAC) yesterday launched an awareness campaign on the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a national move aimed at increasing mass sensitization on the scourge.
The workshop was officially launched by the South Sudan Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, bringing together nearly 200 participants including HIV and AIDS experts, political, community, religious and opinion leaders from within and outside the
While launching the initiative, Dr. Machar urged that; “I therefore urge you (partners) all to scale up HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns…while targeting the majority in the rural area, we should aim at promoting partnership both at national and regional levels.”
The Vice President also emphasized on the involvement of the civil society.
Speaking to hundreds of stakeholders in a three day workshop of the launch that started yesterday at the New South Sudan hotel, Juba, SSAC’s Chairperson Dr. Esterina Novello said that this year’s awareness is focused on “forging strategic partnerships in the HIV response in South Sudan.”
The objective of the workshop is to share updated information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Sudan, share lessons, experience and challenges on partnerships in the HIV response in South Sudan as well as in the region.
“To agree on key strategic partnerships needed for an effective multisectoral response to HIV and AIDS in South Sudan,” Dr. Esterina added.
The Commission said that key activities for the awareness on the HIV/AIDS at National, States and County levels will include radio and TV talk shows, advocacy workshops with community, opinion, religious leaders, teachers and youths.
HIV/AIDS rallies, soccer, volleyball tournaments, marathon, counselling and testing campaigns are some of the strategies geared towards raising HIV/AIDS awareness and getting people tested for the disease.
Esterina said that, during the workshop; “various issues will be discussed including an overview of the epidemic in South Sudan, responses to date at national and States levels.”
She also said that, “it would discuss experiences and challenges of partnerships in HIV prevention, treatment care and support, monitoring and evaluation coordination, resource mobilization and advocacy, TB/HIV treatment, HIV/AIDS mainstreaming and in the private sector response.”
According to a recently concluded study by the Commission, an estimated 3.8million people in the fledgling nation of South Sudan are at risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS. And approximately 111,391 people only have so far been tested for the virus.
Esterina noted that; “valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater investment and commitment is needed from government, donors, international organizations, civil society and individuals if new HIV infections are to be averted.”