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Africa makes progress in containing HIV/AIDS

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2021-12-02 19:36
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Despite the disruptions caused to prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially last year, African countries have made tremendous progress in slowing down the spread of the disease.

According to the African Union, the continent has witnessed a substantial reduction of AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections in the last decade, thanks to advocacy initiatives. Many countries have also adapted HIV programs in the face of COVID-19.

New HIV infections in Kenya, for instance, declined by 68.4 percent between 2013 and this year while deaths attributed to the disease dipped by 67 percent from 58,446 people in 2013 to 19,486 this year.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta attributed the positive indicators to the growing government investment in the diagnosis, prevention and management of HIV/AIDS and related illnesses.

Kenyatta who gave the remarks as he led the nation to mark this year's World AIDS day on Wednesday, said the number of people on life-saving antiretroviral treatment rose by 83 percent, from 656,369 in 2013 to about 1.2 million this year.

Uganda has also seen a drop in the HIV related deaths from 80,000 annually in the early 2000s to 22,000 in 2020, according to the Uganda AIDS Commission. The country also recorded 38,000 new HIV infections last year.

Yonas Woldemariam, the World Health Organization representative in Uganda, said the country aims to reduce HIV incidence and HIV related mortality by 50 percent by 2023.

"Today, the response to HIV is guided by the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS "95-95-95" metric, which aims for 95 percent of HIV-infected people to know their status, 95 percent of those diagnosed to receive antiretroviral therapy, and 95 percent of those on treatment to achieve viral suppression.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, annual new infections among adolescents in Eastern and Southern Africa decreased by 41 percent since 2010, while in North Africa, infections increased by 4 percent.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the UN agency said overall, new HIV infections among adolescents have dropped by one-third, with 85 percent of infections occurring in girls.

Additionally, in Eastern and Southern Africa, new HIV infections among younger children have dropped by 63 percent since 2010.

However, the UN agency said a lot still need to be done, noting that out of the 15.4 million children who lost one or both parents to AIDS-related causes globally last year, 11.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Building back better in a post-pandemic world must include HIV responses that are evidence-based, people-centered, resilient, sustainable and, above all, equitable," Henrietta Fore, the agency executive director said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to WHO, two-thirds of HIV-positive people of the world translating to 25.7 million live in Africa, of whom 80 percent are women aged between 15 and 19.

Amira Elfadil, the commissioner for health, humanitarian affairs and social development at the African Union ‎Commission, said girls across the continent should be enabled to complete secondary education to reduce HIV prevalence among the segment.

"Six in ‎seven new infections among adolescents aged 15-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa are in girls. ‎Empowering adolescent girls and young women to complete secondary education ‎helps keep them safe and reduces their risk of HIV infection by as much as 30–50 percent in ‎some countries," she said.

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