17 February 2012 - In combating the high HIV/AIDS rate in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the UN and a partner donated 140 cartons of condoms to the South Sudanese military today in Juba.
The condoms were handed over by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the non-governmental organization IntraHealth International in a ceremony at Juba Teaching Hospital.
“The military has a big number of young people, who are more at risk of contracting HIV,” said UNFPA deputy representative for South Sudan, Bannet Ndyanabangi, speaking during the event.
“And one of the tools to fight the infection is by giving them condoms,” the deputy representative said.
Mr. Ndyanabangi noted that male condoms were in higher demand than female ones, adding that women should be taught the importance of using the devices.
“Female condoms give women the power to decide whether to use them without negotiating first,” he said, adding that cultural taboos played a critical role in spreading the infection.
“In many cultures, sex is what is discussed in the bedroom,” Mr. Ndyanabangi said. “But because of HIV, we have to come up and talk about sex openly in order to fight it.”
IntraHealth International deputy project director, John B. Mondi, thanked the UNFPA for the donation as well as a training session carried out last year for the military, adding that such awareness campaigns should continue.
In 2011 alone, about 4.3 million male and 43,000 female condoms were distributed throughout South Sudan.
Stressing that HIV posed a big threat to the military, SPLA HIV/AIDS Secretariat Programme Manager Lieutenant Colonel John Woja noted that the disease’s prevalence rate within the army was over 4 percent, higher than any population segment in the country.
“That is why the leadership of the SPLA has become committed to rigorously fight the infection by scaling up partnerships,” Lieut. Col. Woja said. “Our current strategy is to make information and condoms available to them.”
But he said logistical problems were hampering delivery of condoms to various units of the military across the country, especially on the border with Sudan.
“We are working hard to ensure that we …meet the 2015 target – zero new infections,” he said.