Feature story

Treatment success in South Sudan: Fozia’s story

15 August 2011

This is an updated version of a story first published at undp.org

Women living with HIV waiting for treatment at a hospital in Sudan.
Credit: UN/FRED NOY

Weak and unable to walk, Fozia Bullen, from Nagbaka village in South Sudan, had lost all hope when she arrived at Maridi Hospital, one of the few antiretroviral therapy centres in the country for people living with HIV. Her doctor said she had reached a critical stage of illness, with rashes, loss of appetite, and severe weight loss.

After one month of treatment, Ms Bullen was discharged in better health and continues taking medication at home. After four months of treatment, her rashes disappeared, and she put on a significant amount of weight, which enables her to carry out daily work, tend to her gardens, and provide for her family.

She is one of many people living with HIV in South Sudan, which is considered to have a generalized HIV epidemic, with an estimated prevalence of three percent.  

Under a five year US$ 27 million project of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, thousands of people in South Sudan are now receiving lifesaving HIV treatment.  The project brings together a range of partners including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), other UN agencies, the Southern Sudan AIDS Commission, the Ministry of Health, and NGOs.   

A total of 4,156 people living with HIV have been able to access treatment since 2008. The project, which begun in 2006, has established more than 20 treatment centres across the country.

There has also been significant progress in other key areas. As of March 2011 around 130,000 people had received voluntary HIV counselling and testing and more than 158,000 young people have been educated about the virus. This is a setting where, according to latest research, less than ten percent of people have comprehensive knowledge of effective HIV prevention methods.

The project’s notable successes in addressing the HIV epidemic in South Sudan have been achieved in a country impoverished by more than 20 years of conflict with the north. However, despite celebrations of South Sudan’s independence in July, the world’s newest nation remains fragile, with a lack of basic services and infrastructure, a depressed economy, nascent governance and legal systems, and a returning population of refugees forced to flee the country during the conflict. 

To support the AIDS response in South Sudan, UNAIDS is reinforcing its office in Juba in August 2011. Recently appointed UNAIDS country coordinator, Dr Medhin Zewdu is ready to take on her new job.

“National ownership is key to a successful and sustainable AIDS response,” said Dr Zewdu. “I look forward to advancing the agenda on AIDS in discussion with the government, and with the people on the ground including civil society and people living with HIV,” she added.