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Youth urge more awareness on HIV

By Sheila Ponnie

At the first-ever National Youth Conference on HIV/AIDS, youth have called for more awareness on the scourge to reduce its prevalence.

The two-day event on HIV, Sexual Reproductive Health, Rights and Gender Equality ended yesterday in Juba and drew youth from all the states.

It was aimed at introducing and engaging the youth to participate in national targets and commitments on HIV/AIDS, Sexual Reproductive health in the country.

Speaking on behalf of the civil society organizations, Emmanuel Data Gordon, a reproductive health activist said there is need for more awareness to increase voluntary testing rates to achieve global targets.

“We can achieve the 90 90 90 target where 90 per cent of people know their status, 90 of those people are on treatment and 90 per cent of those on treatment have their viral loads suppressed,” Gordon said.

According to the South Sudan AIDS Commission, there is 2.9 percent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in South Sudan.

However, even with progress in access, testing, and treatment, huge challenges remain.
UNAIDS says gender inequalities and gender based-violence, place women and adolescent girls in eastern and southern Africa at a disproportionally high risk of HIV/AIDS infection.

Gordon said that risks associated with sexual reproductive health are high due to child marriages.

He urged parliament to define “marriageable age”, saying many people are taking advantage of it to marry young girls.

He further said that there is need to exempt taxes on sanitary products to allow young girls continue with school.

“The main cause of this is lack of sanitary towels as well as stigma around menstruation making girls to isolate themselves during their menses and I am urging the government and UNESCO to further the reach and awareness of the comprehensive sex education such that talking about sexuality isn’t a taboo,” he added.

Festo Bali Christopher, a member of the Network of Aids Service Organization of South Sudan said that the conference was built on the 2018 Juba youth declaration.

“This conference is to see how best young people can be involved actively in fighting HIV issues and a call for action specifically targeting young people’s experiences of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including necessary measures to eliminate the alarming incidence of SGBV prevailing in the country,” Bali said.

The conference was supported by the United Nations Program on HIV&AIDS (UNFPA, UNHCR, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, and UNAIDS.

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