Zimbabwe Records Decline In New HIV Infections In Adolescent Girls and Young Women

By Kudakwashe Pembere

Zimbabwe is on schedule to reduce new HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) by 2025, at the back of increased coverage of combination prevention programs alongside other interventions, the Global HIV Prevention Coalition(GPC) said in a report.

While the country is still amongst high HIV burden countries alongside Cameroon, Lesotho and Malawi, GPC noted that there has been a decline in the acquiring of HIV in AGYW. The report looks at the progress in HIV control in some African countries.

HIV incidence among adolescent girls and young women remains exceptionally high in parts of eastern and southern Africa and in specific areas in western and central Africa. But some GPC focus countries with high HIV burdens have achieved major reductions (>70%) in new HIV infections in that priority population (e.g. Cameroon, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe) and are within reach of achieving an 88% reduction by 2025,” read the report.

“The reductions in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in a few countries (e.g. Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini and Ethiopia) equalled or exceeded reductions among their male peers.”
ARV-based prevention and changes in sexual behavior were some of the reasons Africa witnessed a reduction of HIV incidence in AGYW aged between 15 and 24 years.

“Substantially fewer adolescent girls and young women (aged 15-24 years) are acquiring HIV in the GPC focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The greatest progress has been in Botswana, Cameroon, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe, where new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women decreased by at least 65% between 2010 and 2022,” read the report.

“These trends are due primarily to increasing coverage of combination prevention programmes, with antiretroviral- based prevention playing a major role alongside targeted primary prevention programmes. Changes in sexual behaviour may also have contributed, particularly during earlier stages of the epidemic.”

The report also noted that the HIV incidence varied in locations where some parts of Africa had high rates compared to others.

“It is important to note that HIV incidence among adolescent girls and young women varies considerably between locations, even in eastern and southern Africa (where incidence tends to be highest). Across sub-Saharan Africa, there is a greater than 1000-fold difference in HIV incidence between locations with the lowest and the highest incidence.

“Overall, HIV incidence among adolescent girls and young women is low to moderately high in large parts of eastern and southern Africa; high in parts of southern Africa among those with non-regular partners; and extremely high across much of the latter sub-region among women aged 18-25 years who sell or trade sex (16). It is vital that prevention programmes reach the girls and women who are at high risk of acquiring HIV infection,” GPC said in a report.

GPC also noted there has been a decrease in HIV incidence among young males and adolescent
boys in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. 

“Among adolescents and young people (15–24 years), new HIV infections have tended to decrease more rapidly among males than females.3 The steepest declines among adolescent boys and young men were in Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, where at least 70% fewer adolescent boys and young men acquired HIV in 2022, compared with 2010,” said GPC.

Meanwhile, the latest Draft 2024 HIV Estimates for Zimbabwe states that 99 percent of people who were tested and were found HIV positive are on treatment. In terms of the 95-95-95 targets, Zimbabwe is doing well when it comes to adults as it has surpassed all the three 95s at 97-99-96 unlike the children still lagging behind in the first and last 95.
“Country closer to achieving 95 -95 – 95, however children left behind on 1st and last 95. Only 68 percent have been tested and of the 68 percent, 98 percent are on treatment while 89 percent of those on treatment have their viral load suppressed,” notes the report.

Zimbabwe according to the draft estimates had a national incidence rate of 1.14 per 1000 people in 2023. Females had the highest at 1.39 per 1000 compared to males at 0.9 per 1000.

“Mbire has the lowest incidence at 0.6(0.5-0.9) while Mangwe has the highest at 6.4 (5.4-7.5) per 1000 uninfected population. Absolute number of new infection were highest in Harare while the lowest were in Hwedza,” read the estimates.

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