South Sudan Commemorates World AIDS Day

South Sudan yesterday commemorated the World AIDS Day for the first time since gaining Independence. Most speakers urged South Sudanese to unite in the efforts to fight the pandemic as its rapidly spreading in the youngest nation.

South Sudan Commemorates World AIDS Day
Destiny Women group presenting a skit on AIDS during the event in Juba [©Gurtong]

Waakhe Simon Wudu
Juba, 2nd December 2011 [Gurtong] - South Sudan yesterday commemorated the World AIDS Day for the first time since gaining Independence. Most speakers urged South Sudanese to unite in the efforts to fight the pandemic as its rapidly spreading in the youngest nation.

Hundreds of people gathered under the scorching sun in Juba at the Dr. John Garang mausoleum to witness the event that was also attended by President Salva Kiir as the Guest of Honour. Various schools, women groups and artists colourfully entertained the gathering.

With the theme, “Take Lead in Preventing HIV/AIDS” towards zero new HIVAIDS infection and zero discrimination, the function was characterized with several promises in the fight against the endemic disease.

President Kiir declared that 1st of December to be AIDS Day and a public holiday in the country. “1st December must be a public holiday so that all Ministers, senior government officials, business people to come to this place and attend this function,” the President declared.

Kiir's speech was mainly directed to the youths, he urged the youth to keep away from the dangers associated with the pandemic and to be committed in prevention measures.

“Let’s behave responsibly, use protective measures or abstain from whatever you may want to do,” Kiir stressed.

He also cautioned those who buy sex saying it’s like buying the pandemic. “Don’t take money as the first priority for yourself,” said Kiir.

The President also assured his commitments to address the issue by approving the 35 Million South Sudanese Pounds approved by the Council of Ministers last year to fight the disease.

One of the women groups, Destiny Women advocated on how to strengthen the fight against HIV/AIDS before the gathering. They called on the senior civil servants, NGOs and other advocacy groups to increase funding to support the fight against the pandemic, fight illiteracy, and they also encouraged unity among the stakeholders in South Sudan.

E. Mathew, a South Sudanese living with HIV and AIDS testified that he contracted the virus in 1980s but he was still enjoying his life. Mathew said that there are no clear policies that supports the HIV and AIDS victims and orphans whose parents died of the pandemic.

The event was organised by the South Sudan AIDS Commission (SSAC). Key South Sudanese artists were brought together to perform educative songs to challenge the citizens about the dangers of the pandemic.

Dr. Esterina Novello, the Chairperson of the SSAC pointed out that, the disease was was spreading at an alarming rate.

“Many South Sudanese have little knowledge about HIV and AIDS prevention and transmission, the high level of stigma and discrimination, self denial and poor health care system have hindered the progress made to fight the disease,” said Esterina.

She added that, poverty and illiteracy are some of the critical factors that need to be addressed in order to fight the scourge. At least 70% of South Sudan’s population is estimated to be illiterate.

Esterina said that a World Bank Specialist last month called on the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to boost education at the bottom level as one of the solutions to fight poverty.

According to Esterina, “3.1% among the South Sudanese expectant women have no appropriate intervention measures in place, the prevalence of the HIV/AIDS may upsurge to 6% by 2016.”

Meanwhile, the South Sudanese Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Yatta Loli Lugar pointed out that, 300,000 South Sudanese are living in the country with the HIV and AIDS, 3.8 million are at risk of contracting the disease each single day and 1 out of 10 South Sudanese have not been tested.

Intervention
“We need to put mechanisms in place where external funding is directed to areas of greater need to increase coverage and scope of intervention, I would like to urge all Ministries to include HIV/AIDS messages in their speeches,” Esterina emphasized.

Comments
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02/12/2011, 10:09 AM
 - Posted by Basil Nyikal
Thank you Mr.President,thank you for declaring the 1st December a Public and National Holiday for the RSS.This is a good direction of fighting the Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS as all the Citizens on that particular day will engage themselves in activities aimed towards Zero Tolerance to HIV/AIDS.

Again,that was a great speech fueled with much advise to the youth to reduce their indulgence in promiscuous activities and engage themselves in activities that lead to the Development of the Republic of Southern Sudan.This is very true since Southern Sudan population majorly is comprised of the Youths.

But,create Jobs for the Youth so that they dont indulge themselves in activities that put them at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS
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