Living with HIV in South Sudan: Moses’ Story
CMMB has been working in South Sudan since 2009. The youngest nation’s devastating civil war coupled with conflicts just beyond its borders has left the country with virtually no social services or health infrastructure.
For those living with life-threatening diseases like HIV, access to adequate health resources is the difference between life and death. In the story below read about Moses, a six-year-old boy with HIV, who was given a second chance at life thanks to CMMB’s programs, the World Food Program, and of course — a healthy dose of love.
Reality in South Sudan
In South Sudan, an HIV positive diagnosis is a near death sentence for the majority of the population. Ravaged by conflict, this young nation lacks the healthcare, education, and food systems to support the needs of its HIV-affected population.
Even under the best circumstances, it takes a delicate balance of trained medical intervention for a person diagnosed with HIV to live a healthy life. The patient must have consistent access to the proper balance of medications, healthcare tracking to adjust those medications, as well as proper nutrition in order for their bodies to absorb the medications. Even knowing these risks, when food is sparse, families look after each other’s well-being and share scant food resources, resulting in malnutrition that is often detrimental to the HIV patient’s treatment.
Funded by the World Food Program, CMMB works in South Sudan to provide dry food rations to food-insecure families of people living with HIV. As part of this Nutrition and Food Assistance Project, these vulnerable families receive cereals, pulses, cooking oil, and salt in line with their local diet. This project ensures that a family of up to six members is food secure during the HIV patient’s treatment, to ensure that the patient has adequate nutrition to absorb HIV medications.
Moses is HIV positive—he is only six years old. Moses has six older siblings; fortunately for each of them, their mother had access to medical care during pregnancy and delivered in health facilities. Under this vigilant care, none of his six siblings contracted the virus from their mother and are still living HIV-free.
However, when it was time for Moses to be born, violence had broken out around their community, and his mother was forced to deliver out in the bush without even a midwife present. Without access to healthcare and preventative intervention, Moses was born HIV positive. As is common with so many families in South Sudan, Moses’ father was killed in combat in 2017 as a result of the ongoing civil war. Tragically, his mother died of AIDS in November of 2018.
Upon his mother’s death, Moses was left in the care of his oldest sister, Cecilia. Life became very difficult. Cecilia recalls that three weeks after losing their mother, Moses fell ill and could not eat; it was obvious that he was quickly losing weight. At his young age, Moses was the first to become malnourished as the whole family struggled to find enough to eat.
Without proper nutrition, Moses was at even higher risk, as his HIV treatments could no longer help him. During the following weeks, a CMMB nutrition volunteer visited their home and immediately referred Moses to the nutrition program. Right away, the nutrition volunteer enrolled the family in CMMB’s Nutrition and Food Assistance Project and they began receiving food rations in January 2019.
“Thank you to CMMB and WFP for your support. Without you, my brother would have died, and the entire family would still be malnourished.”—Cecilia
CMMB’s nutrition volunteers continue to visit the family to check in on Moses and provide the family with counseling on nutrition practices. We are thrilled to find out that Moses’ nutrition is already improving—he is able to continue his HIV treatment, and the health of all his siblings also continues to improve.