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Sadc still epicentre of HIV epidemic

by Staff reporter
26 Aug 2020 at 07:07hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE still accounts for many HIV infections in the Sadc region amid reports that 42 percent of sex workers and 28 percent of prisoners are positive countrywide.

The country has the fifth highest HIV prevalence in the region at 12,8 percent after Swaziland (27), Lesotho (22,8), Botswana (20,7) and South Africa (19).

According to the recently released 2020 Sadc Gender Barometer, Zimbabwe has one of the commendable condom use rates although 21 percent of men who have sex with men (MSM) are HIV-positive.

The report stated that Sadc, which has 4,6 percent of the world's population, is home to 45 percent of all people living with HIV in the world.

In 2019 Sadc accounted for 55 percent of new infections in young women and 35 percent new infections in young men globally, 48 percent of people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 55 percent of children on ART.

The report also highlighted that Covid-19 is disrupting HIV services which could lead to an additional 500 000 Aids-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2021 and regression of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme to levels of a decade ago.

"Although tremendous progress has been achieved in all aspects of HIV prevention and management, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) is still the epicentre of the HIV epidemic. Eight countries have a prevalence of more than 10 percent including Zimbabwe whose prevalence stands at 12,8 percent," read the report. Of the total number of people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, 54 percent are women and 46 are men.

"About 42 percent of sex workers in Zimbabwe are HIV positive and there is need for much greater attention to programmes and services for prevention and management of HIV among sex workers throughout Sadc."

Aids-related deaths have also been on the downward trend in Zimbabwe which recorded 20 000 deaths in 2019 compared to 110 000 in 2005.

"Prisoners are also highly affected as 28 percent are positive while 21,1 percent of men who have sex with men are positive. There is a higher HIV prevalence among MSM than in the general population of men in all countries," read the report.

Zimbabwe's MSM prevalence is the second highest in the region after Lesotho's which stands at 32,9 percent. According to the barometer, condom use has not expanded rapidly enough over the last decade as a result of decreased priority being placed on condom programmes.

"Active condom promotion in Namibia and Zimbabwe over two decades has led to some of the highest recorded levels of condom use at least for sex with non-regular partners. Condom use by young women has increased in the last decade in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe but is declining in Zambia and Tanzania."

According to the document, Zimbabwe must improve multi-sector efforts to strengthen key population programmes, as outlined in its National Key Populations HIV and Aids Implementation Plan 2019-2020.

The country was also urged to address structural barriers by working towards law reforms, sensitisation of health-service providers or law enforcement agents, and media campaigns to eliminate stigma and discrimination.

Source - chronicle
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