- Southern Africa
- Health - Aids
Zimbabwe records sharp drops in HIV cases but rate remains "high"
Zimbabwe’s economy could be in bad shape but one notable improvement is on its fight against HIV/AIDS. On Thursday, the health ministry announced that infection rate has again dropped to 13.7 percent from 14.1 last year.
But health Minister Henry Madzorera says the rate was still too high and much more should be done to further reduce the infection rate. He said, "We have to redouble our efforts and commitment and keep the sense of hope that indeed one day we will get to the single digit prevalence," Madzorera said.
The figure estimates the percentage of people aged 15 to 49 who have HIV. The southern African country is one of the few countries in the world to have recorded a sharp decline in its HIV prevalence rate, down from a high of 33 percent in 1999.
The country is struggling to care for people with Aids because of severe shortages of antiretroviral drugs. Madzorera said the government was exploring new strategies to fight the pandemic, including male circumcision, which has been shown to reduce infection rates among men. Just over 1,000 men have been circumcised under a new campaign, he said.
The National Aids Council (NAC) on Thursday attributed the decline on prevention programmes and behavioral change. The death of some of the positive people has also lowered the percentage of those still HIV positive. The national HIV prevalence rate in the 15-49 year age group has decreased from 18,1 percent in 2006 to 13,7 percent in 2009. This is the most sexually-active demographic group and HIV and Aids trends within it largely reflect the national picture.
NAC also said the HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women had decreased from 17,7 percent to 16,1 percent over the same period. However, NAC indicated that a high death rate had also contributed to the decline in prevalence.
Prevalence among the 15-24 years age group remained unchanged between 2007 and 2009 with female youths recording a higher percentage of 7,5 percent compared to their male counterparts whose prevalence rate stood at 3,5 percent. The prevalence rate among children below the age of 14 stood at 2,1 percent over the past three years. Of the 1 102 864 people estimated to be HIV positive, 997 123 are adults above the age of 15, and 594 847 of these are females.
The estimated number of new HIV infections in adults (15-49 years) peaked in 1992 at an estimated 234 999, but declined to 62 883 in 2008. However, the new adult infections are estimated to increase to 66 156 this year.
According to the latest estimates, at least 343 460 adults are in need of anti-retroviral therapy. Currently, 150 000 people are receiving ARVs in State programmes, with donors supplying the bulk of the drugs, while thousands more are buying their own or getting them through medical aid. United Nations agencies, non-governmental and State agencies assisted in compiling the estimates.
The UN has in the past praised Zimbabwe’s HIV and Aids intervention initiatives.