Eliminating stigma is key to mitigating HIV, South Sudan AIDS commissioner says

By Simon Deng

Eliminating rampant stigma and discrimination among societies and communities is essential to mitigating HIV/AIDS in South Sudan, Esterina Novella Nyilok, the chairperson for South Sudan HIV/AIDS commission said.

Nyilok was speaking at a ceremony to mark World AIDS day in the capital Juba on December 1.

“We know that to end AIDS we must eliminate stigma and discrimination which is rampant in our societies and communities, put people at the center and ground our responses in human rights and gender responsive approaches,” said Nyilok.

“inequalities and human right barriers in South Sudan represent a big impediment to accessing health services more specifically HIV services and increases vulnerability of people living with HIV, drive vulnerable population to new HIV infections and spread of HIV to others,” she said.

The global theme for World AIDS day this year is “End inequalities, ends AIDS, end Pandemics”

Nyilok said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted delivery of vital services essential for the control of HIV, noting that it has set back the national and global efforts to end the pandemic by 2030.

“HIV infections is on the rise among young people but the infections has decline by 2.3 percent  among adults , a big number which has tested for HIV are not on treatment, out of the estimated 180,000 people living with HIV,23 percent are enrolled for treatment,” she said.

“We must at the same time forge ahead, innovate and invest more in the communities to end the HIV pandemic everywhere, otherwise no one is safe unless we all are safe,” she added.

“We must find national pathways towards predictable, sustainable long-term financing of HIV and Aids, we need to work on how we can mobilize domestic resources for sustaining support of HIV.”

Elizabeth Acuei Yol, the Minister of Health said the government is committed to fight HIV infections, but noted that the economic crisis has curtailed government efforts to adequately fund the AIDS commission.

“It is unfortunate that we the government, we are doing what we could but it is not enough because health system is very expensive thing we cannot be funded from outside,” said Yol.

 “We know the situation the government is going through in terms of economic but that cannot be a reason for us to say South Sudan cannot. We believe we can if we work together.”

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