Juba HIV/AID Warning



Juba: HIV/AID Warning - wear Gum Boot (Condom)

JUBA, 29 January 2010 (PlusNews) - The evidence of five years of peace is everywhere in Juba, regional capital of Southern Sudan - in the brisk trade in the city's markets, its packed bars and nightclubs, and in the relaxed gait of the soldiers of the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

For the soldiers, the contrast with life in the bush could not be greater - they wear new uniforms, receive a monthly salary and are refered as freedom fighters by the local population. But behind the good times lurks the threat, senior officials of the SPLA warn, of HIV/AIDS.

 "After peace was achieved, our soldiers began to receive regular payment, and with money comes the ability to buy alcohol, to buy sex," said Lt Col John Woja Elinana, head of the SPLA's HIV secretariat. "With the increase in cross-border movement of people from high-prevalence countries like Uganda and Kenya, sex with women whose HIV status is not known is putting them [soldiers] at high risk."

According to Woja, during the war years, knowledge of HIV prevention was very low among the troops, and the army's leadership embarked on an aggressive campaign to equip soldiers with the knowledge and skills to avoid infection.

A 2009 report, HIV/AIDS, Security and Conflict:

New Realities, New Responses, by The Netherlands-based research group, the AIDS, Security and Conflict Initiative (ASCI), warns that "post-conflict transitions are both a period of heightened vulnerability to HIV transmission and a neglected element in HIV and AIDS policy and programming".