30.11.2018 - UNESCO Office in Juba

Parliamentarians Commit to Table HIV Policy to Safeguard Right to Health for All

Parliamentarians during a group discussion.

About 50 Members of the Parliament participated in a two-day workshop, from 22nd – 23rd November 2018, in recognition of the urgency to fast-track HIV legislation in South Sudan. The workshop, which was held in Juba, was co-organised by UNESCO and the specialised Committee on Health and HIV of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA). The event was held in collaboration with the South Sudan HIV/AIDS Commission (SSAC) and UNAIDS. The MPs represented 16 specialised committees.

In her opening remarks, the Deputy Speaker of the TNLA, Honourable Ms. Awel Mawien, stated that despite the disease being a challenge, its impact can be reversed. She reminded the Members of Parliament that it was part of their responsibility to enlighten their communities about the existing prevention and treatment opportunities.

She further added that the possible dividends of the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict would lead to more financial resources for the health sector. Therefore, the onus was on the legislators to advocate for more resources for the health sector.

The Chairperson of SSAC, Dr. Esterina Novello appreciated the commitment by the Health and HIV committee which portrayed the important role of the legislators to protect the rights of all the people in the country. Dr. Novello urged the legislators to speed up the adoption of the HIV policy to better guide the national HIV response.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and IOM who shared statistical information and the dynamics of HIV transmission.  The workshop illustrated the structural, behavioural, economic, cultural and social factors that lead to HIV infections. UNAIDS shared global lessons linking HIV response to the legislators’ core functions, including legislation, oversight, budget, informed enquiry and representation.

HIV infection is preventable. People with the virus can be initiated on treatment in order to live productive lives. The HIV draft policy, which was developed in 2015, recommends prevention modes targeting persons with disabilities, young people as well as key populations and uniformed personnel. The policy also proposes that the education sector be supported to deliver life skills based sexuality education to learners.

According to the 2017 UNAIDS estimates, the national prevalence rate is 2.4 percent. It is estimated that 40 percent of the 16,000 annual HIV infection were among young people aged 15-24 years. Close to 60 percent of the new infections are among females and who also have higher records of deaths compared to males. The humanitarian crisis and population displacement as well as the inequalities in access to HIV services makes women and girls more vulnerable to HIV infection.

The legislators were in consensus to advocate for at least 15 percent of the national annual budget towards the health sector. The resources would address the gaps in the HIV prevention and treatment services in many parts of the country. The proposed target is drawn from the 2001 Abuja Declaration on HIV/ AIDS, Tuberculosis and other related infectious diseases.

In her closing remarks, the Chair of the Committee, Dr. Catherine Laa, pointed out that they had to convince the leaders to adopt the policy before further legislation. She further underscored that HIV is a cross-cutting issue and requires all the partners to ensure that related human rights are not denied.

 

For further information, please contact Castarina Lado c.lado(at)unesco.org




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