IOM is working with vulnerable populations across South Sudan to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS and increase access to treatment, care and support services. In South Sudan, the Ministry of Health estimates that, as of 2012, 2.7 percent of adults were infected with HIV, 13 percent of whom were children under the age of 15 years.
With support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, IOM's prevention programmes aim to reduce the prevalence and incidence of HIV in South Sudan among key populations, more vulnerable to the disease. As part of the prevention programme, IOM has trained 177 peer counsellors within communities to conduct outreach activities and encourage uptake of key HIV prevention, treatment, care and support activities.
At a World AIDS Day (1/12) event in Juba sponsored by the Ministry of Health, the South Sudan AIDS Commission, IOM, the UN and partner agencies, local actors used theatre and song to demonstrate the damage discrimination can cause to those affected by the disease and the critical steps each individual can take to prevent contracting HIV/AIDS.
In coordination with the UNHCR, IOM teams are assessing the level of awareness and access to HIV and AIDS services among displaced populations in refugee camps and protection of civilian (PoC) sites in South Sudan. Once complete, the results will inform partner activities to address gaps, gender-based violence and access to mental health and psychosocial support.
Through a consultative process with partners and other stakeholders, IOM is also developing a revised national behavioral change communication strategy, as well as education and communication materials, to improve HIV and AIDS awareness and knowledge on behavior change.
At the UN protection of civilian (PoC) sites in Bentiu, Malakal and Wau, health staff offer prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV through testing of pregnant women for HIV and providing antiretroviral treatment for those found to be positive. With antiretroviral treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission interventions can reduce the risk of transmission to an unborn child to just 5 percent, compared to up to 45 percent without treatment.
Through existing mental health and psychosocial support programmes in these sites, IOM is linking people living with HIV and survivors of gender-based violence with trained counsellors and support groups.
Sitting with six other women at a prevention of mother-to-child transmission support group in Bentiu, singing while they embroider and bead necklaces, one expectant mother living with HIV said: "When I'm alone, I feel stress. I rarely get time to myself but I am happy spending time with others in this group to share our stories and support each other."
IOM's humanitarian health and mental health and psychosocial support programmes in South Sudan are also supported by USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Government of Japan and the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation.