Zimbabwe’s HIV burden has decreased with latest statistics from the draft 2014 national estimates report showing a decline in the national HIV incidence rate, new infections and the number of children getting infected through mother-to-child transmission.
The HIV incidence rate refers to the number of new HIV infections in a population during a certain period.
National Aids Council monitoring and evaluation director Amon Mpofu, however, said Bulawayo and Matabeleland South remained home to the country’s HIV hotspots with incidence rates of 2,5 and 1,4 respectively. He said the national incidence rate was now 1,1 down from 1,95 in 2001.
An incidence rate of 1,95 in 2001 means that there were a total of 348 new infections per day across a normal distribution population that includes infants born to HIV-positive mothers, youths, adults and the elderly.
These infections dropped to 242 per day in 2014, hence the rate of 1,1.
The national target was to halve the 2001 incidence rate by end of 2015 to 0,98.
The prevalence rate remained static at 15 percent against a target of less than 10 percent by end of 2015.
Prevalence rate refers to the percentage of people infected with HIV in a population.
Mpofu said the number of new infections per year had also decreased from 127,110 in 2001 to the current 88,326.
He said the number of people on anti-retroviral treatment had increased from 5 percent in 2004 to 63,4 percent for adults and 55 percent for children in 2014.
Zimbabwe’s target was 85 percent by year-end.
The latest statistics also show that women remained the worst affected by HIV with an incidence rate of 10 among commercial sex workers.
Mpofu said an estimated 42,6 percent of commercial sex workers were living with HIV and Aids.
NAC’s national monitoring and evaluation co-ordinator Isaac Taramusi said judging by the HIV trends, the country should meet most of its targets by year end.
“If you look at the trends, we will definitely achieve most of those targets by the end of the year,” he said.
Taramusi attributed the successes to the country’s initiatives in combating HIV such as the elimination of mother-to-child transmission, Option B+ and implementation of the World Health Organisation’s new treatment guidelines.
“These programmes are bearing fruit to our national response to HIV hence the continual decrease of the HIV burden,” he said.
Addressing stakeholders at the launch of the draft national estimates in Harare recently, the head of the World Food Programme’s vulnerability analysis and mapping unit Andrew Odero said it was important to invest in HIV interventions focusing on women since evidence shows that women continue to be the worst affected by HIV.
“Female HIV prevalence is generally higher than that of male over the years, therefore investments should prioritise female-focused interventions,” said Odero.
He said Matabeleland South should focus more on prevention of HIV since it has the highest prevalence, yet it has the lowest number of people living with HIV.
“This suggests that the likelihood of having new HIV infections is highest in these areas than any other parts of the country. This necessitates increased investments in prevention activities in these areas. In addition, further risk analysis is needed to understand the risk factors,” he said.
Odero said Harare and Manicaland provinces should focus more on treatment as they had the highest number of people living with HIV.
He said HIV risk factors were high in provinces with the main border entry points such as Beitbridge, Kariba, Victoria Falls, Plumtree, Forbes and Nyamapanda.
Zimbabwe recently adopted the 2013 World Health Organisation guidelines giving the country an obligation to provide treatment to all HIV-positive pregnant women, children, people co-infected with HIV and TB as well as discordant couples.
The new guidelines also challenge the government to introduce more efficacious regiments — all in an effort to increase chances of survival for people living with HIV and reduce the rate of transmission from those HIV-positive to their negative partners.
Studies have shown that chances of an HIV-positive person passing the virus to a negative partner are low if they are on treatment.