with the Director of the Sudan National AIDS Control
Programme Dr. Ehab Ali Hassan
Dr. Ehab addressing
crowds on World AIDS Day
Dr. Ehab first, I wish to congratulate you
on your new post as the Sudan National AIDS
Control Programme (SNAP) director. How would
you describe the current HIV situation in
A. Sudan is a very large
country with diversity in both climate and
in ethnicity; hence the HIV situation also
varies in the South and the North.
In the South, we consider the situation
to be a generalized epidemic with a prevalence
rate exceeding 1%. In the North however,
the epidemic can be characterized as being
a low to concentrated epidemic. Our recent
Antenatal Care Sentinel Survey revealed
that if current measures of prevention and
mitigation are not proven to be very effective,
Sudan will be characterized as having a
generalized epidemic in the next five years.
Despite concerns of stigma and social discrimination,
PLWHA took the lead this year in organizing
their own associations and mobilizing communities
against the threat of HIV in Sudan. Members
of the association organized awareness sessions
in 8 northern states and shared their own
experiences in living positively with HIV.
In each of these sessions, they explained
the importance of voluntary testing and
the availability of free palliative treatment
to the public.
Q.2 In your opinion, what
are SNAP’s greatest achievements since
the discovery of the first HIV positive
case in the eighties?
A. The first HIV positive
case was discovered in 1987, and I feel
that since then we have realized a lot.
The establishment of PMTCT centers is one
of our greatest achievements, in addition
to improvement in blood transfusion which
was previously completed without screening
for HIV and other blood diseases. Now, almost
all blood transfusions are given after screening.
Furthermore, we have also succeeded in mobilizing
large sectors of the society to advocate
against stigma and discrimination directed
Q.3 Can you give us more
insight into the new Sudan strategy for
A. Prevention is one of
the biggest thematic areas in this strategy
in addition to care and treatment and fighting
stigma. As you know we currently have around
1000 patients under regular treatment in
different ART centers, we need to ensure
that they receive quality service in all
these centers. There is also another thematic
area in the strategy dealing with impact
mitigation targeting vulnerable populations
such as orphans, and families of patients
with HIV-related illness.
Q.4 How would you describe
the current cooperation between SNAP and
UNDP GFATM in fighting AIDS in Sudan?
A. There is a strong commitment
observed both in SNAP and UNDP GFATM to
help individuals affected by HIV. I personally
feel that GFATM is an essential resource
in the fight against AIDS here in Sudan,
and we are working together to reach a better
understanding to make the optimum use of
these grants for the best interest of Sudanese
Q.5 What would you highlight
about the role of civil society organizations
in the response to HIV?
A. We rely heavily on the
contribution and the response of the civil
society because when we talk about prevention,
we are talking about behavioral change in
the society that can be achieved through
civil society organizations. Some of these
civil societies however lack the experience
and their capacity needs empowerment, and
I think with assistance from SNAP and other
partners, we can achieve a lot.
Q.6 I understand that there
have been efforts made by UNDP and SNAP
regarding the enactment of a bill for human
rights protection of PLWHA, has that taken
A. Regarding the enactment
of a law that protects the rights of PLWHA,
we have worked intensively during the past
two months with the Ministry of Justice
to finalize this bill. Now, a draft zero
of the Law is ready to be ratified by the
National Assembly. All clauses of the draft
are meant to preserve the rights of PLWHA
and to reduce stigma.
Q.8 You recently have met
with H.E. President Omer Al-Bashir, what
were the major highlights of that meeting?
A. I had a very fruitful
meeting with H. E. President Al-Bashir where
I briefed him on the current epidemiological
status in the country and the national response
to the epidemic. I also briefed His Excellency
on efforts of national response to AIDS
through the provision of prevention, care
and treatment in VCTs, ARTs and PMTCT centers
in 15 states.
Furthermore, I briefed the President on
the current funds available for HIV/AIDS
activities, and highlighted the role of
the international community in funding HIV/AIDS
activities through GFATM and UN agencies.
A representative from the Association of
PLWHA was present during the meeting where
he relayed to the President for the first
time the concerns of PLWHA regarding social
stigma and the rights of PLWHA to lead a
The PLWHA further extended a letter of thanks
to President Al-Bashir for his continuous
support to the Association. The president
commended the efforts made by SNAP and its
partners in responding to HIV/AIDS, and
reiterated his strong political commitment
to support national response in Sudan. He
further announced his endorsement to three
key messages for World AIDS Day which will
be broadcast in the media very soon.