TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

South Sudan renews commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS

A senior official from the U.N. agency leading the world's response against HIV/AIDS welcomed South Sudan's commitment on Tuesday to battle the rate of new HIV infections.

In 2012, an estimated 150,000 people were living in South Sudan with HIV. According to UNAIDS, AIDS-related deaths in the country nearly doubled since 2001, from 6,900 to 13,000 last year.

"These efforts are a testament to the resilience of the South Sudanese people and a clear sign of their desire to achieve a viable independent state," Luiz Loures, the deputy executive program director of UNAIDS, said.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, is mostly populated with young people. According to the World Bank, more than half of the population is under the age of 18 and 72 percent is under the age of 30.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir acknowledged the need to tailor HIV services to the needs of his country's young population.

"If they are left vulnerable, there will be no country," Kiir said.

The U.N. is working with non-governmental partners to provide condoms to the South Sudanese military in an effort to fight the high rates of infection among soldiers, which is estimated at higher than four percent. The army established an HIV Secretariat in 2006 to fight this trend.

During his visit to South Sudan, Loures met with other government officials in addition to U.N. development partners.