No One Left Behind: Fighting HIV in South Sudan
The ongoing crisis and conflict in South Sudan has made it difficult to address the young nation’s rapidly rising HIV/AIDS infection rates. HIV-positive women and men face terrible social stigma and discrimination. In 2016, 100 percent of pregnant women who received antenatal care through CMMB program worldwide knew their HIV status. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is critical. Our PMTCT counselor, and one of our beneficiary mothers in South Sudan shared their stories.
Nora explains why she’s driven to help the most vulnerable women in her community:
“These are all my people and I work with them hand in hand. I don’t leave anyone behind. As a PMTCT counselor, I talk to all of my mothers in regular group counseling sessions. Initially, I also speak to the group with their husbands, and then work with them individually as couples. If the women test HIV-positive, I have to educate and counsel them because I want their children to be born HIV-negative; and that is happening. When I have a pregnant mother who has tested positive, I will take her by the hand and walk her to antiretroviral therapy, because I want to make sure that she receives treatment. I want to make sure she takes her drugs, and delivers at a hospital because I want to make sure that her baby is born HIV-negative, to help our nation of South Sudan in the future.
The patients we see are very poor and there are so many of them. Some women are reluctant to come for testing and treatment; sometimes their husbands won’t join them. I make sure we keep talking, because it is important for couples to make decisions together. My job is to make sure that both partners have information and to counsel them as a couple.
Since CMMB has been working in the community, I have seen improvement. The mothers tell me that they are glad for the services we offer. CMMB is an organization that is helping me look after my own people, my own blood, my own community.”
Margery is HIV-positive and participates in CMMB’s PMTCT program in South Sudan. Both of her children are HIV-negative, including her son pictured above. Margery was eager and proud to share her story:
“I was feeling healthy when I went to CMMB for a check up, and I had the courage to be tested for HIV. When I found out I was positive, the counselors said I could start treatment right away, and I have been taking my ARVs ever since. I am a healthy mother because of CMMB and my medicine. I have delivered two children and both are HIV-negative. CMMB is educating my community. If you listen to CMMB counselors, you can stay healthy, live longer, and deliver children who are HIV-negative. Through CMMB, I am helping many women in my community, and their partners, by explaining how to take treatment at the right time. CMMB has shared the gift of life with this community. Without information, medicine and care from CMMB, most of us would die. That’s why I say CMMB has given us another chance at life.”
In 2016, nearly 44,000 pregnant mothers participated in CMMB’s PMTCT programs globally.
With a focus on preventing mother-to-child transmission, CMMB ensures that HIV testing and counseling services are fully integrated into antenatal care services. Empowered with information, these mothers can effectively plan for pregnancy and ensure that their children are born HIV-negative.
HIV continues to have a significant impact on global public health, with millions of new infections each year. Existing HIV prevention tools can dramatically drive down the rate of new infections and virtually eliminate them in babies. Global prevention of mother-to-child transmission is an integral part of the PEPFAR strategy to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Committed CMMB staff like Nora and mentor mothers like Margery in South Sudan, play a critical role in achieving that goal.
Find out more about our work in South Sudan