MATABELELAND South (Mat South) has an HIV prevalence of 20%, a figure higher than the national prevalence which currently stands at 11.6%, making it the provinces with highest number of people living with HIV in the country.
By Michael Gwarisa
Zimbabwe has a total 1.3 million people living with HIV and basing on the national HIV and AIDS prevalence percentage of 11.6%, this translates to one in every nine people living with HIV across the country.
Giving an epidemic update, National AIDS Council (NAC) Monitoring and Evaluation National Coordinator, Mr Isaac Taramusi said even though Zimbabwe was moving closer to epidemic control, Mat South still has the highest number of new and old HIV infections.
Looking at the provincial perspective, we see that there is high prevalence in Mat South where we have almost a 20% prevalence. Nationally, we are saying one in every nine people is living with HIV but if you look at the 20% from Mat South you realise that one in every five people is living with HIV. The least that we have is in Manicaland where prevalence is almost 9%,” said Taramusi.
Even at district level, Mat South remains the hardest hit in terms of prevalence, with 22.8% prevalence having been recorded in Bulilima in 2021.
Mr Taramusi added that spousal separation could be the reason behind the high HIV prevalence in Mat South though he said more research needed to be done to ascertain the reasons behind the high HIV burden in the province.
The provincial HIV prevalence picture has Mat South leading the pack with 19.58%, followed by Mat North 14.31%, Bulawayo 13.34%, Masvingo 11.19%, Mashonaland East 11.31%, Midlands 11.85%, Mash West 11.23%, Harare 10.53, Manicaland 9.38%, and Mash Central 10.39%.
Looking at the provincial picture however, from the 1.3 million living with HIV and AIDS in the country, the bulk of people who are living with HIV and AIDS are from Harare and this can be explained by the population distribution where there are more people living with HIV and AIDS in Harare as compared to other regions.
“Harare has 220,000 people living with HIV and AIDS and the least that we have is Mat South where we have 83,000 people living with HIV. Looking at the prevalence where are looking at the old and new cases, we are at 11.6 percent and trying to break down that, we are saying one in every nine people are living with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe.
“What does that mean, it means that we still have a high HIV burden in our communities. If you look at the epidemic curve, it has moved from where we had a high of about 26% whereby one in every four people was living with HIV and AIDS. Now we are talking of one in every nine. This is a tremendous effort where we would see that if we continue to implement our programs as usual, we will be able to push down the prevalence to probably a single digit whereby we will reach the epidemic control phase.”
However, in terms of new infections, Harare has more cases and this is largely to do with the population size. Mangwe district has an even higher incidence ratio compared to other parts of the country and the lowest incidence is currently recorded in Mbire.
Meanwhile, over the past three years, Zimbabwe has had an almost static number of people living with HIV and AIDS at the back of increased HIV prevention programs. Mr Raymond Yekeye, the National AIDS Council Operations Director said the national response has largely recovered and has already achieved the 90-90-90 targets, where-in, 95.6% of people infected with HIV now know their status, 95.6% also are on treatment while 93.2% are virally supressed.
“These achievements of global fast targets have set us on an irreversible course to achieve the 95-95-95 targets by 2025. We have also managed to integrate COVID-19 and non-communicable diseases within the response as we aim to achieve the health targets in the National Development Strategy 1 and the eventual ending of AIDS by 2030.