Stigma, Ignorance Increase Risk of Spreading AIDS in Sudan
October 27, 2005
Nearly three-quarters of Sudanese young people ages 19-25 are sexually active, but fewer than a tenth know how to protect themselves from STDs, UNICEF said Monday.
Compared to sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV/AIDS incidence in some countries is as high as 10 percent, Sudan has a relatively low incidence of 1.6 percent of adults and 1.3 percent of young people.
UNICEF says HIV prevalence among pregnant women is 2-3 percent, though more analysis is needed. But stigma against those with HIV/AIDS is so great that further prevalence analysis is hampered by people's refusal to get tested, said Musa Bugungu, the country's UNAIDS chief. "Unfortunately, the stigma is high -- [people] cannot disclose their status simply because they fear the community will go against them," he said.
Bugungu said AIDS stigma runs through all classes of Sudanese society and can only be prevented through information campaigns. However, outside of the capital city of Khartoum, radio and television are rare, so information is spread through schools and religious institutions. Bugungu said religious leaders are committed to stopping the spread of AIDS but they refuse to promote condom use. "They will not promote it because they look at it as if they were promoting adultery," he said.
In addition to Sudan's young people, those displaced by the country's 20-year civil war are at risk of HIV/AIDS -- particularly in Darfur, where large numbers of refugees live in crowded camps without access to HIV education or treatment. As numerous displaced and demobilized soldiers return home to the south, the risk of the spread of AIDS is high, Bugungu noted. "You can see that there is a potential danger there," he said.
10.24.2005; Opheera McDoom
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.