Written and photos taken by: Taban Robert Aggrey, journalists in Juba, South Sudan
‘Stigmatization is one of the leading factors discouraging young people from attending youth friendly health facilities’ said Dr. Victoria Achut, Director for the HIV Department, Ministry of Health South Sudan in her opening address during a journalist training workshop earlier this month.
Journalists in South Sudan will be utilising their critical role in the community to break down detrimental barriers caused by stigma. A three-day training workshop, conducted by UNESCO, was hosted last week, 5-7 October 2015, in efforts to build greater knowledge among journalists on sexuality education. The training is the first of its kind, targeting broadcast media and radio personnel to develop scripts that will disseminate critical information to young people, parents and communities across the country of South Sudan.
Stigma and discrimination hinders many young people from accessing crucial sexual and reproductive health care that they need. This includes receiving HIV testing and treatment, contraceptives and pregnancy care. Although the need to defuse stigma and discrimination is widely accepted across South Sudan and Eastern and Southern Africa, it is still prevalent across many communities.
Journalists in the workshop
Topics that will air on radio and broadcasting stations include healthy relationships, puberty and body reproduction, sexuality, gender and human rights, STIs and HIV/AIDS prevention, pregnancy and contraception, among others. There will also be further information linking young people to youth friendly centres that help them better access health supports and services they need.
« The Ministry of Health and South Sudan AIDs Commission are committed in addressing the issues of sexuality and HIV prevention especially among young people in and out of schools, » said Dr. Victoria.
She revealed that countries like Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Angola, and Zimbabwe have succeeded in establishing youth friendly centres – South Sudan will need to follow suit.
Dr. Victoria applauds the efforts of UNESCO and other development partners for trying hard to address the issues of stigma, ensuring every young person may practice their basic human right to sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Habib Dafalla, the Director General of Programme Coordination, South Sudan AIDS Commission (SSAC), said getting the media trained is one crucial way of helping to « crack down » on HIV prevalence in South Sudan. He further emphasized that journalists have an important role to play in sharing life-saving knowledge and skills to young people across the country.
Wishing the journalists good luck in their places of work. He urged to use the knowledge and skills they learned to have impactful coverage across the whole of South Sudan.