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South Sudan Braces for Fight Against HIV/AIDS

  • Kelly J. Kelly

Program for the 19th International AIDS Conference held last week in Washington, D.C. (De Capua)

Program for the 19th International AIDS Conference held last week in Washington, D.C. (De Capua)

The19th International 2012 AIDS Conference concluded last Friday in Washington, DC. with more than 20,000 people attending the event. It brought together many panels on the achievements and challenges of fighting HIV-AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. But in many ways, South Sudan is an unusual case study.

Dr. Acol Ayom, represented South Sudan at the conference and is the deputy chairman of the South Sudan AIDS Commission. He explained that because of South Sudan's decades-long war, the country was largely protected from HIV, but she said that since the borders have opened, internally displaced people and refugees are pouring into the country. They are bringing HIV and AIDS with them.

"Now, after the peace agreement and independence, everyone is coming to South Sudan," Acol said. "So, we're expecting the prevelance of HIV to be very high."

The relatively delayed start of HIV in South Sudan means that treatment options are also not as developed as in many sub-Saharan African countries.

"Infrastructure is zero in South Sudan, including health. For treatment, we are depending on the Global Fund and Multi Donor Trust Fund. But those are finished," Acol said.

Acol added that South Sudan does not have the resources to test children, either. She said the million dollars the United States had given to fight HIV is simply not enough -- not enough for the patients, for new testing, or for scaling up.

Yet Acol says that now, when the disease is not yet out of control, is the best time to invest in treating and preventing and HIV-AIDS.

"We say this is the second war for South Sudan," she said. "After independence, HIV is the second war."

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