Government eyes mass HIV/AIDs test campaign

Government eyes mass HIV/AIDs test campaign
Hussein Abdelbagi, Vice President for Service Cluster [Matik Kueth, The City Review]

The government is mulling nationwide HIV/AIDS testing and awareness campaigns in the country to fight the pandemic.

The Vice President of the Service Cluster, Hussein Abdelbagi, who spoke during the commemoration of International AIDS Day in Juba yesterday, said society bears a big responsibility for the battle against the disease.  

“Individual voluntary testing is one of the most important components of this battle. As a government, we must also start a widespread HIV/AIDS testing and awareness campaign,” he said.

Abdelbagi said this year’s theme, “Let Communities Lead,” resonates with the duty of the widely distributed Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Boma Health Teams (BHTs) in the country.

He observed that many countries were making tremendous steps in the fight against the spread of the virus, but South Sudan is stuck.

“Let us join hands and work hard to reach our national goal of an AIDS-free South Sudan by 2030,” he urged.

Through close collaboration with the South Sudan HIV and AIDS Commission, Abdelbagi said the nation has provided and is going to keep providing an enabling environment for communities, faith-based organisations, and networks of people living with HIV to play their respective roles in the fight against the disease.

“The HIV drugs that are being provided free today in our health facilities are capable of curing the virus on condition that you adhere to medical prescription and guidance,” he said.

The fight against stigma, he said, would make it possible for HIV patients to make their way comfortably to the medical institutions to take their medication.

“It is our moral responsibility to embrace positive individuals and encourage them to live freely among us. We need to further encourage them to speak about their status and motivate members of their communities to establish their status,” he said.

“Such a strong initiative shall help curb the rate of infection and concurrently eliminate stigma in society,” he added.

According to him, the parliamentarians at states’ assemblies, the council of states and the transitional national legislative assembly should encourage their people to be champions in the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.

“We also urge parliamentarians to coordinate collaboration between their respective communities,” Abdelbagi stated.

Mr. Lole Laila Lole, the South Sudan Network of People Living Positively (SSNeP) Coordinator, said the network is facing many challenges and appealed for support from the government.

Laile said the only vehicle that was donated to them by the president in 2007 had broken down, and they did not have means of transport to get to the states and counties to support those who are living with the virus.

 “It is deepening and worsening the economic livelihood status of PLHIV and TB; hence, they are facing hunger and starvation with no source of income and without any savings, leading to defaulting on treatment. As a result, PLHIV are dying and spreading the virus to others.”

However, the associations of PLHIV through community counsellors, mentor mothers, and mentor fathers are playing a vital role in HIV prevention in the communities.

  Laila said the budget for HIV should not be dependent on the donor agencies alone.

“We need domestic funding, as per the resolution of SSNeP+, PLHIV, and the general assembly in April 2018.  The system that many African countries are using is granting 2% of tax revenue for HIV/AIDS activities to avoid tension between the government and PLHIV in the country,” he said.

 “In order to end AIDS by 2030, there should be funding to community CSO organisations, no restrictive laws, and HIV policy should be passed.”

Morethan 10,000 PLHIV have been identified in the refugee camps in Northern Uganda alone, as the result of the SSNeP+ assessment of PLHIV in northern Uganda in 2022.