Over 14,000 teenagers live with HIV
The African Network for Care of Children and Adolescents (ANECCA) dealing with people living with HIV/AIDS says there are 14,000 teenagers living with the Virus in the country. The Network said that the figure was alarming adding that something needs to be done to abate the threat.
Speaking to Juba Monitor after the workshop on HIV awareness that brought several civil society organizations together, the Country Coordinator for ANECCA Project Dr. Dhuor Andrew said the government and other stakeholders should work hard to sensitize the public about the dangers of the disease.
“We need to pay attention to young people, especially those in adolescent period both boys and girls,” he said. “The country has produced an estimate of 14,000 HIV infections in children, meaning 14,000 children are living with the disease,” Dr. Andrew added.
He said ANECCA is working closely with the Ministry of Health to increase the coverage and quality care among the children infected by HIV/AIDS.
“We are working closely to make sure that messages about HIV are sent directly to the community in order to be aware of the disease,” he said.
He urged the government to enforce the new science and evidence around managing HIV testing which suggests that anyone tested positive should be put on treatment immediately instead of waiting for their CD4 count to drop.
Dr. Andrew said the most affected area in the country is Western Equatoria due to influx of people from DRC, Uganda and Sudan at the border of the country.
The SPLA Medical Corps in the Department of Art, Harriet Fouzia Ginaba said the affected children and adolescents should be taken for early treatment for them to live longer.
She said awareness of the disease should be extended to schools for the community members to fight out the stigma and discrimination within the society.
“The level of HIV awareness and knowledge among this group is very low,” Ginaba said. “I therefore call upon the youth to actively take the lead in creating awareness about HIV/AIDS.”
She said the government and the development partners working on health HIV program should help to cater for the education of the affected children.
“Some of these issues should be taken seriously because these children are the future of the country,” she said.
According to the Ministry of Health, 2012 rate of HIV infection was the lowest reported since the survey was first conducted in 2007.
The survey showed that, where a person lives, his/her level of education and marital status are important risk factors for HIV infection.
Western Equatoria has the highest infection rate, at 6.8 percent, followed by Eastern Equatoria with 3.4 percent.
The lowest infection rates are in Northern Bahr el Ghazal with 0.3 percent and Warrap, Jonglei and Unity states, with 1.3 percent each.
An infection rate above one percent is considered a generalized epidemic.
By Kidega Livingstone