Aug 15, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudanese minister of Health called the mass media to organize ant-AIDS campaigns saying the media had a key role to play in halting the disease’s spread in the country.
- Tabitha Boutros
Federal Minister of Health and Chairperson of the National AIDS Council, Dr Tabitha Boutros Shokaya today warned that the young people between 19 -49 years are mostly targeted by the diseases, calling on the mass media to intensify the awareness campaigns in order to contain the disease and make success the national anti-AIDS strategy.
A United Nations report, released last November, says Sudan has the highest rate of HIV infection in North Africa and the Middle East. Sudan now struggles to combat the epidemic. But HIV infection is still associated with a loose lifestyle, making it difficult to address the disease in this conservative, religious nation.
Some 600,000 Sudanese males and females live with HIV/AIDS, half of whom are men aged under 25. HIV/AIDS, which has claimed the lives of 23,000 Sudanese and is jeopardizing dividends from a January peace deal that ended this country’s 21-year civil war.
Tabitha, Tuesday chaired the first meeting of the council, renewing the political commitment to combat AIDS all through the different sectors and segments of the society.
She affirmed the importance of the integrating the official and popular efforts in order to contain its impacts on health and economy of Sudan.
The National AIDS Council, whose memberships include Ministers and States Ministers, issued a number of recommendations in order to assist in combating AIDS according to the articles of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
This strict Muslim/Christian society stigmatizes AIDS patients, who find it nearly impossible to maintain normal lives. Asha was infected with HIV during a blood transfusion. However, she says many people assume she did something wicked to contract the disease.
It is not just the Muslim society which stigmatize the disease. Many Christians disagree with teaching young people to use condoms. They believe it will promote sexual activity.
Dr Tabitha Sokaya (SPLM), has provoked a political storm by publicly advocating condom use to stem the country’s HIV crisis.
Her open speaking about AIDS and advocacy of condom use led to calls for her dismissal last June by MPs from the ruling National Congress party. Although few people take the threats seriously, they indicate the obstacles to effective implementation of Sudan’s national AIDS strategy.
Sudan’s youth clearly know what sex is. The United Nations Children’s Fund says nearly 75 percent of young people in Sudan are sexually active. But less than one in ten know how to use a condom correctly.
"There seems to be acknowledgement that AIDS could undo all of the peace dividends, if it’s not addressed now," she said. "Already 60,000 children are orphaned by AIDS in Sudan. Another 300,000 children, under 18, are HIV positive and, if the curve continues to grow, it means we’re going to have an entire generation that is HIV positive" said Paula Claycombe is an information officer with the United Nations Children’s Fund.