17 February 2012 The United Nations is working with a non-governmental organization (NGO) to provide condoms to the South Sudanese military in a bid to tackle the high rates of HIV/AIDS among the country’s soldiers.
“The military has a big number of young people who are more at risk of contracting HIV,” said, Bannet Ndyanabangi, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) deputy representative for South Sudan. “And one of the tools to fight the infection is by giving them condoms.”
Some 140 cartons of condoms were distributed by UNFPA and the NGO IntraHealth international in a ceremony at Juba Teaching Hospital, in the country’s capital.
Last year alone, about 4.3 million male and 43,000 female condoms were distributed throughout South Sudan. Mr. Ndyanabangi noted that there is a higher demand for male condoms than for female ones, and added 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. But because of HIV, we have to come up and talk about sex openly in order to fight it.”
Lieutenant Colonel John Woja, the HIV/AIDS Secretariat Programme Manager of the military, stressed that HIV poses a big threat to the military, as its prevalence rate within the army is over four per cent, higher than any population segment in the country.
“We are working hard to ensure that we meet the 2015 target – zero new infections,” he said.
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