Juba, South Sudan – The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of General Education and Instruction (MOGEI) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for The Right to Health for the Education Sector Campaign with South Sudan HIV/AIDS Commission (SSAC) and UNAIDS.

The signatories were Dr. Riak Gai, the Minister of Health; Dr. Nadia Dudi, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports and who signed on behalf of the education Minister Mr. Deng Deng; Dr. Esterina Novello, Chairperson of SSAC; and Mr. Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. The United Nations Representative, Mr. Alain Noudehou and the UNESCO Representative to South Sudan, Mr. Sardar Umar Alam were among those that participated in the event.

The purpose of the MOU is to enhance cooperation between the two ministries, SSAC and the Joint UN Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) to collaboratively develop and implement a strategy in line with the UNAIDS Fast Track Strategy, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual Reproductive Health, including tuberculosis, malaria and hepatitis in the education sector.

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr. Michel Sidibe is in the country to meet with the political leadership to advocate for resources and support for the HIV response in the current humanitarian situation in South Sudan. Mr. Sidibe noted that the education sector is critical in the HIV response as it provides access to information on prevention, treatment and reduction on the impact of the disease.

He further recommended to reduce stigma and discrimination which deters people seeking and utilising HIV services.

According MOH, only 32% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country know their HIV status while only 14% of them are on treatment. These rates are extremely low as per the UNAIDS treatment for all strategy which targets 90%.

According to UNAIDS 2016 estimates, 40% of the 16,000 annual HIV infection were among young people aged 15-24 years. Close to 60% of the new infections are among females and also have higher records of deaths compared to males. However, while AIDS-related deaths declined by 1% between 2010 and 2016 among girls and women, there was an increment by 12% among boys and men. About 70% of PLHIV on treatment are women.

The MOU is anchored on the ESA Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual Reproductive Health for adolescents and young people which was endorsed 8 December 2013 by 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa including South Sudan.

Since 2013, education managers have collaborated with partners to integrate CSE into the national curriculum, developed learners’ and teachers’ materials, sensitised community on CSE through media and supported the training of over 500 in-service teachers.

Meanwhile the MOH, is currently reviewing the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health Strategy with partners to ensure that critical areas are integrated into community programmes such as the Boma Health Initiative. The Boma Health Initiative provides for sustainable delivery of essential health care and public health programmes at the community level.

UNESCO is one of the key stakeholders in delivering CSE in the country.  This ground-breaking event demonstrates national commitment by the two ministries and partners as well as a promising coordinated response to step up efforts to realise the 2020 targets stipulated in the aforementioned ESA Ministerial Commitment.

The targets include increasing access to CSE and SRH services. It proposes to eliminate gender-based violence, child marriage and all new HIV infections amongst adolescents and young people. It also stipulates commitment to reduce teenage pregnancies by 75% as well as increase comprehensive knowledge of HIV prevention among young people.

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