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Sudan: Keeping HIV/AIDS in check

© UNICEF video
Teachers in Kadugli, Sudan, learn about AIDS prevention. On returning to their communities they will share the information with their students.

By Paula Claycomb

Paula Claycomb, UNICEF’s Communication Officer in Sudan, talks about how UNICEF and its partners are putting the focus on young people in order to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading in the region.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, 14 December 2005 – “The prevalence level of HIV/AIDS in Sudan is a little bit lower than many other countries in the region are experiencing. The overall prevalence rate is about 1.6 per cent – probably higher in the southern part of Sudan and then in some pockets of northern Sudan. We want to keep it that way. We must not let the prevalence rate rise to what it is in some other regions. And to that end, UNICEF and many of its partners, including government, other UN agencies and NGOs, are working on prevention amongst youth and children and on care and treatment.

“There’s a real reluctance by government to talk about HIV/AIDS, as well as by civil society. It’s a disease that results from an intimate practice, and many people are simply unwilling to talk about how AIDS is caused and what can be done to prevent it – and of course what can be done to treat it. There are many differences in Sudan, both regionally, culturally, and on a religious basis as well. This means that, although there are certain basic principles in addressing the battle against an increase in HIV prevalence, still we have to tailor some of our approaches. For example, with our peer education programme you might talk to youth about what causes AIDS and what can prevent it a bit differently in the Muslim areas of the country versus the Christian areas of the country. Some of the cultural groups and ethnic groups in Sudan also require tailored responses so that we’re not treading on sensitive traditional practices. Of course, the final word always has to be the same: safe sex.

“Only about a third of all young people between the ages of 18 and 25 know how HIV is caused. Many of them think, for example, that HIV is caused by a mosquito bite. They don’t know for example that kissing is not going to pass the virus on. A very recent knowledge attitudes and practices survey that UNAIDS, the Sudanese National AIDS Control Programme (SNAP), and UNICEF have undertaken indicate that many young people, contrary to what many adults would like to believe, are partaking in premarital sex, which raises the stakes. We really need to get the word out now about how to prevent HIV.”




14 December 2005:
UNICEF Communication Officer Paula Claycomb talks about how UNICEF and its partners are battling HIV/AIDS in Sudan.

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