Decline in Adolescent HIV Prevalence

A 2017 Youth Adult Survey has found that the HIV Prevalence among adolescents alongside young adults is dropping.  The survey however could not mention what could have attributed to this decline but indications point to massive awareness campaigns, financial support and other programs to reduce HIV.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

The survey dubbed Youth Adult Survey of Zimbabwe: Using Data to better understand and serve children and adolescents at risk of HIV and child violence in Zimbabwe sought to estimate prevalence and incidence of HIV and prevalence of physical, emotional and sexual violence among adolescents and young adults.

It was done by the Ministry of Health and Childcare in conjunction with Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric Aids Foundation, PEPFAR and ZimStat.

For young adult females aged between 16 and 24 years, the prevalence rate was 4, 5 percent while the males’ was 3,5 percent.

Director of AIDS and TB in the Health Ministry Dr Owen Mugurungi during a Media Sensitisation meeting about the survey said basing on estimates of their previous studies, they found the prevalence rate among young girls at 6 percent.

“Most of the population based surveys that have been done in this country, have not been powered to get enough information on young people or young adults or adolescents. And this is the reason why after having done our first study in 2002 to find out the HIV prevalence amongst those young persons, we repeated it in 2017.

“So the nearest that can give us an indication of where we are have always been estimates. Because the estimates, the input data that comes from programs that comes through surveys, that comes from other population based surveys. So our last estimate had indicated that HIV infection among young women below 24 was around 6 percent,” he said.

He added that the survey under study was more accurate.

“These are the estimates but this is now a study, a measure of what it is and it was powered much more correctly. It is much more correct now. When you look at the range because they say it was six percent, but ranging from three up to eight. We are happy that 4, 5 falls within that range,” he said.

The young adult male prevalence rate in the previous study according to Dr Mugurungi was at 3.3 percent.

“If you then look at men or young men, we had estimated that the HIV infection in young men to be around 3, 3 percent. That’s the previous estimate that we reached as Ministry. But it came out 3, 5 percent and it’s around the same range,” he said.

EGPAF Technical Advisor Strategic Information Mr Emmanuel Tachiwenyika concurred with Dr Mugunyuki that the prevalence rate this time around was low.

“In terms of interpreting the prevalence in terms of being low or high one needs to have some benchmark. The benchmarks for our national estimates usually come from our population based national studies or so on.

“I could quickly check from what we found from ZIMPHIA but I must say that this is on the lower side. The 4, 5 percent and 3, 5 percent are amongst those aged between 16 and 24 years of age. If you want to compare with what we found in the past if we are going back to other population based HIV studies conducted in the past,” he said.

Developing protocols for the study began in 2016 followed by data collection between January 2017 and August 2017.

The target sample size in terms of households was 33 000 and the study oversampled females aged between 13 and 24 in the six DREAMS districts namely Chipinge, Mutare, Makoni, Mazowe, Gweru and Bulawayo.

The DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) partnership is an ambitious public-private partnership to reduce rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in the highest HIV burden countries. In 2015, 10 DREAMS countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, accounted for nearly half of all the new HIV infections that occurred among AGYW globally.

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