Health Experts "Fear" Impending HIV Epidemic in Southern Sudan After Two-Decade Civil War
April 12, 2006
Health experts "fear" that southern Sudan, emerging from more than two decades of civil war, could experience a major HIV epidemic because of low levels of HIV/AIDS awareness among the population, an influx of returning refugees from neighboring countries with higher HIV prevalence and an increase in cross-border trade, IRIN News reports (IRIN News , 4/10). HIV prevalence in southern Sudan is estimated to be 2.3%, according to a report by U.N. Population Fund (IRIN News , 4/10). The civil war devastated the region and left people without basic services and access to HIV prevention information and support. "It is so hard to disseminate information when literacy levels are so low, and there is a complete lack of television and radio," Sheila Mangan, a UNICEF officer based in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, said. A series of studies by the World Health Organization, conducted after a peace agreement was reached in January 2005, suggest that authorities in southern Sudan face many obstacles in HIV prevention and education. Health experts also are worried that, as the country rebuilds, increased mobility among people threatens to intensify the spread of HIV (IRIN News , 4/10). There is concern that returning refugees will fuel the spread of the virus. More than 4.5 million people fled during the civil war, with four million displaced internally and another half a million living as refugees in neighboring Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, all countries with a high HIV prevalence (IRIN News , 4/10). Commercial sex work among tea-sellers and low-income women also is increasing as traders and truck drivers from Uganda travel through southern Sudan.
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