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Sudan Tribune

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Unity state announces funding to target HIV/AIDS rates

November 16, 2013 (BENTIU) – Unity states council of ministers has approved 14,000 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) in preparation World AIDS Day on 1 December.

Last month, the HIV/AIDS commission announced that the percentage of people suffering from HIV/AIDS as dropped from 1.6 to 1.3% in the 2011-2012 period.

Unity state information minister, Nyaliep John Dak, told journalists on Friday that there is need for both men and women in the area to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.

She called for people to be given proper orientation about the dangers of AIDS, saying those living in isolated or rural villages were largely ignorant about the disease.

However, Dak says she hopes the recently-approved funds will allow health officials to reach more people in rural areas.

Dak says the reason why the state government had committed to observing World AIDS Day was to raise awareness about ways people can protect themselves against the disease.

“On that occasion [you] will be oriented that HIV is the killer disease, you have to protect yourself”,Dak said.

The minister has urged both local and international NGOs to provide counselling, as well as encourage volunteer testing for the disease

She said NGOs also had an important role to play in educating people about the disease, particularly the importance of getting tested regularly.

“You [have] to make sure that you are protect[ed] from HIV/AIDS, and [are] making [a] test three to six months, at least six months”, she said.

HIV/AIDS infection rates in 2011 and 2012, particularly among sexually active young people between the ages of 17 and 30, caused widespread alarm in Leer County and Bentiu town.

State coordinator for the HIV/AIDS Commission Paul Mabany said a lack of funding had hindered efforts on the ground to raise awareness about the dangers of the disease.

Mabany said the new funds injection would help health authorities mobilise communities in both rural and urban areas.

He said health authorities are planning a public awareness campaign using billboards and posters in a bid to educate people on risk factors for contracting HIV/AIDS and preventative measures that can be taken.