In Southern Sudan, successes reported in HIV-AIDS fight

01 Dec 2010

Counseling, testing, drug therapies work together

Fozia Bullen from Nagbaka village was among
the first patients enrolled in AIDS treatment and
care at the Maridi Hospital ART Clinic.
(Photo: UNDP)
Juba — A major effort by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to combat an HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southern Sudan has achieved notable successes in an area already impoverished by more than 20 years of conflict.

UNDP’s Southern Sudan project to combat HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has given HIV training and education to more than 140,000 young people. Some 3,835 HIV positive patients are currently antiretroviral therapies (ART), with 379 among them also being treated for tuberculosis. Another 84,000 people have been tested and counseled for HIV.

The project, funded with more than US$8.5 million by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is the only provider of ART services in Southern Sudan.

Southern Sudan’s HIV positive get treatment

Fozia Bullen from Nagbaka village was among the first patients enrolled in AIDS treatment and care at the Maridi Hospital ART Clinic, opened in April 2010. A year after her diagnosis, Fozia’s health was deteriorating and the nearest ART clinic was in Nzara Hospital, a long and expensive journey.

Weak and unable to walk, she had lost all hope and when she reached Maridi Hospital her doctor said she had reached an acute level, with severe body rashes, chronic diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and severe weight loss.

After one month of treatment, she was discharged in better health and still takes medications at home. After four months of treatment, her rashes are gone, her diarrhea stopped, and she is now 80 percent of her normal weight - able to carry out her daily work, tend to her gardens, and provide for her family.

Jacob Benjamin BuBu, 46, an electrician at Radio Wau in Western Bahr El Ghazal state, tested HIV positive in 2005. His wife also tested positive. But they avoided passing the virus on to their three children by entering the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme at the state’s Wau Teaching Hospital.

The husband and wife are members of the Sabrin Association for people living with AIDS and take part in HIV/AIDS campaigns and outreach programmes in the state. BuBu says he has kept up his ART regime for the last five years.

Preventing HIV

In Eastern Equatoria state, Chorokol village has benefited from voluntary counselling and testing services, although the population is in constant flux due to security concerns, flooding and livestock farming. Community chiefs play a crucial role in HIV counselling and testing.

The Boma chief of Chorokol called back his people from distant cattle camps and grazing lands for HIV counselling and testing after a failed first event when herdsmen were away farming cattle. With the session rescheduled, herdsmen travelled for nearly two days to reach the testing site.

A fragile peace

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed 9 January 2005 marked a critical juncture for Sudan and opened an unprecedented opportunity to turn the devastation of more than 20 years of civil war, displacement, and underdevelopment into a new era of peace and prosperity.

But peace in Southern Sudan remains fragile, with infrastructure and basic services lacking, the economy depressed, governance and rule of law structures in need of strengthening, and the return of populations who forced to flee.

Early sex among boys and girls and courtship and marital practices that encourage unprotected sex with multiple partners further increase HIV infection rates. De-mining and cross-border trade contribute to a rise in transactional sex.

HIV/AIDS prevalence rates range between one and eight percent in the general population, with higher rates along the border areas.