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They are all school-age teens, but only one says he attends school regularly. The long-running north-south civil war, and the more recent presence of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army LRA , has kept many Southern Sudanese children out of school. Once evening comes, the young people disperse, drunk, into the night and head for Yei's many bars. The town's economy has boomed since the end of the war because it lies just 80km from the Ugandan border, and is the entry point for all the consumer goods the south does not yet manufacture.
The town is crammed with truckers and traders from neighbouring Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, ready to buy alcohol and part with some money for the company of a young lady for the evening, and many of the town's teenage girls are willing enough partners.
With little money and even less education, Yei's young people are in the crosshairs of the AIDS pandemic. Once the loud guffaws at the mention of sex had died down, some of the others in the group said they had never been told that AIDS was spread by having sex.
Those who did know about AIDS said condoms were too expensive. The security situation had prevented HIV services from reaching much of Southern Sudan, she said, but the recent peace had given HIV service providers a chance to begin prevention activities. In town, where most NGOs operate, signs of HIV awareness messages can be seen: some hospitals have voluntary counselling and testing sites and peer counsellors visit the school and roam the streets, teaching young people about the pandemic.
But AIDS is still virtually unheard of in rural areas. In the tiny village of Morsak, in a dense forest about 25km outside Yei, the level of ignorance was shocking. One young man in the village, educated in Uganda, said even if somebody in the community had died as a result of the virus, the level of ignorance was such that nobody would have been able to recognise the cause as HIV.