News / Africa

South Sudan Fights New War Against HIV/AIDS

A Sudanese aid worker [C] talks to Sudanese soldiers and scouts on how to spread the message on HIV/AIDS at an internally displaced camp in Juba, southern Sudan, October 2005. (file photo)
A Sudanese aid worker [C] talks to Sudanese soldiers and scouts on how to spread the message on HIV/AIDS at an internally displaced camp in Juba, southern Sudan, October 2005. (file photo)
Hannah McNeish

South Sudan gained independence from the north after decades of civil war that killed an estimated two million people. Now there is peace and business is booming. But as the borders open for trade and commerce, health experts say the country now is fighting a new war against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Hidden at the back of one of Juba’s most sprawling markets are row upon row of tin warehouses, hosting some of the estimated 10,000 sex workers that have followed transport routes from neighboring countries to look for work.

Many like Josephine -- not her real name -- came from Uganda in search of a waitressing job in the burgeoning restaurant trade that caters to aid workers and businessmen. Instead of finding streets paved with gold, though, she and countless others ended up surrounded by potholed dirt tracks full of trash, and trapped in prostitution.

HIV rates are thought to be shooting up in brothels where women face violence from men in a post-conflict country with very low awareness of the risk of disease. The virus is brought in by prostitutes, traders and returnees coming from bordering countries with high prevalence rates.

“They just tell you that they want you, then they take you to the room... so from there he’s putting me at gunpoint as he wants to play sex without condom. Sometimes they have Bennett -- it’s a knife. Beat you, slapping you, 'saying why do you say you want to use condom?'” said Josephine.

Testing for HIV

She said most of the 40 or so women in this brothel are HIV positive, and she is three months overdue for a test to see if she is still negative.

The last survey was done in 2009 by the Ministry of Health. Among pregnant women, the HIV rate was then about 3 percent. Various other surveys put the general rate of HIV in South Sudan at just over one percent. Health experts expect it to climb higher, however, now that the borders are open.

Dr. Esterina Novello Nyliok, head of the South Sudan AIDS Commission, said that since signing a peace agreement with Sudan in 2005, the South's population has doubled and the risk of the epidemic spreading has increased.

"Being a post-conflict country, HIV, the prevalence could even go higher than this, as the coming of the peace and independence in South Sudan has opened the movement of people coming in and out," said Nyliok. "Before the peace, we believe that the war was containing the spread of HIV, whereby during the war some areas of southern Sudan were not accessible, and now people are moving in and out of the country.”

Funding gets cut


Nyliok said just as so many people flock to newly independent South Sudan to resettle or to make a quick buck, funding for HIV/AIDS has been slashed in the global economic crisis.

Many governors of South Sudan’s 10 states are trying to round up sex workers and deport them. Women in Jebel market say the mayor of Juba has promised to tear down these brothels and evict them soon.

But charities working on the ground say this will only make one of the highest risk groups - already hiding from the authorities - even harder to reach.

FIH educates, trains

Family Health International [FHI], an American aid agency funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is distributing condoms and training peer educators who work with up to 6,000 female and male sex workers in the capital.

FHI’s interim head Phyllis Jones-Changa says many of these women are foreign and have a much higher awareness of the risks of HIV/AIDS than their equally high-risk clients of truckers and motorbike taxi drivers.

“We’re finding that the knowledge levels are higher. We’re finding that the sex workers are actually asking us to provide them more condoms. You do find cases where men don’t want to use condoms, but I think increasingly we’re finding that the sex workers, when they become more aware, they use condoms more frequently,” said Jones-Changa.

FHI found an 8 percent HIV prevalence rate from testing 17,000 people in four border states considered high risk since January.

Jones-Changa said that awareness and prevention of AIDS, and the protection of women, must increase dramatically or the spread of the disease could be what she called “explosive” in a nation that is desperately looking to progress.

HIV/AIDS Worldwide

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid