News

    South Sudan HIV Treatment Hurt by Lack of Money

    Andrew Green

    In South Sudan, tens of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients are eligible to start anti-retroviral therapy to treat the disease. But the country’s main source of funding for the drugs - the Global Fund - suspended its latest round of grants at the end of last year. As a result, South Sudan has had to stop enrolling new patients in anti-retroviral programs.

    After Patrick Mawa Moigo learned he was HIV-positive in 2008, his medical counselor advised him to start anti-retroviral therapy (ART), right away. The drugs saved his life.

    He has started volunteering at Nimule Hospital, where he gets his treatment. The hospital is in the middle of this booming town, just across South Sudan’s border from Uganda. Every week, Moigo travels out to the surrounding community, encouraging people to get tested.

    “I will be telling them, ‘Whenever even you are not enrolled, come for test. Test your blood. When you are found positive, come to ART, whereby you will be counseled. After counseling, then, you will be given medicine.’”

    Challenges ahead

    Except no new patients can currently be enrolled in ART in South Sudan. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was the primary provider of funding for the drugs in the country. But the Global Fund, which draws its financial support largely from donor governments, ran out of money last year. That forced the fund to suspend its latest grant-making round.

    South Sudan was hoping the new round would fund its continued rollout of ART. UNAIDS country coordinator Dr. Medhin Tsehaiu says at least 49,000 people qualify for the drugs. But less than 4,000 are currently enrolled. The Global Fund did provide money to keep patients currently on ART, like Moigo, supplied with the drugs. But Tsehaiu said it does not have money to allow the country to enroll new patients.

    “That has affected very, very seriously South Sudan," said Tsehaiu. "Because the hope was that we’ll have access to that funding. And, of course, the government was not really prepared to fill this gap, because this decision came suddenly. This means we cannot scale up these services, so this is really a big challenge.”

    South Sudan was already facing difficulties in addressing its AIDS epidemic. There is little knowledge about HIV in the country. The south’s decades of war with Sudan and the constant movement of populations made it difficult to raise awareness about how to prevent or control the disease.

    Prevalence rate


    Despite that, the country’s HIV prevalence rate of around three percent is lower than most of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa. But that still translates into thousands of people who need treatment now.

    There is also concern that the country is about to see a sharp rise in new infections, now that its borders are open and more people are streaming into the country.

    Taamba Danmbi-Saa is the project coordinator for Merlin’s health interventions in Nimule. Merlin, a British NGO, helps run the Nimule Hospital, along with two other health centers in the area.  He says this is especially true in Nimule, which sits on the highway that connects the markets of Uganda to much of South Sudan.

    “We are at one of the hotspots in South Sudan. This is the entry point from Uganda, Kenya, by road," said Danmbi-saa. "We have hundreds of trucks that come and station here for a couple of days before they proceed to Juba. These people that are coming - the passengers, the drivers - they are all people that might be potentially infected. And when they come, because of the usual activities, if they get involved in one or two sexual activities, for instance, then they spread on the infection course, because of the low level of people’s awareness about infection.”

    Nimule’s prevalence rate is already higher than the national average, at more than five percent. Four years ago, Merlin rolled out a comprehensive HIV service at the hospital, working to get as many people tested and treated as possible. The program runs radio spots and distributes leaflets. And they recruit HIV-positive patients, like Moigo, to go out into the community and talk to people about their services.

    Kennedy Ndonja, who runs the ART clinic, says the outreach has worked. In March, 48 new patients were enrolled in the HIV program - more than any previous month. The program includes counseling, food supplements and treatment for the opportunistic infections that can plague HIV patients.

    What it does not include, for now, is ART for those new patients. Ndonja’s program has not been able to enroll anyone on treatment since November of last year. He is worried about the impact this could have.

    “We fear that as this continues, more patients will be able to be turning up with their conditions," said Ndonja. "Now, if we will not be able to initiate them on ARVs, it will be too unfortunate for the patients.”

    The government and donors are scrambling to find other resources to increase the country’s ART availability. For the time being, though, HIV patients who are not already enrolled in the drug treatment program will just have to wait.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jayne Obeng
    April 10, 2012 3:53 AM
    The Government of South Sudan, its national AIDS committee, and key donors were counting on Round 11 to secure funding for the implementation of this nascent national strategic plan. The International HIV/AIDS Alliance published a report on the impact of the Global Fund cuts on the HIV and AIDS response, including a country case study on South Sudan: http://www.aidsalliance.org/includes/Publication/GF_South%20Sudan.pdf

    by: Yonas
    April 07, 2012 9:05 AM
    ART is more than treating patients but is prevention strategies. if we denied HIV pos patients from enrolling into care, we are also increasing new infection . Ethically it didnt sound well once we asked the patients to be tested for HIV and come to know their status and enrolled into ART care then finally told them we dont have drugs for you. The government together with partners should work hard to ensure the presence of comprehenisve care for HIV in South sudan. No time to wast.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora