The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises the 1st December as World AIDS Day, a global public health campaign dedicated to raising awareness about AIDS spread by HIV.
Approximately 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2016). Of these, 2.1 million are children. An estimated 1.8 million individuals became newly infected with HIV in 2016, which equates to 5,000 new infections per day.
Although there was a decline in the HIV death rate between 2000 and 2015, African regions still account for almost two-thirds of the global total of new HIV infections. Africa is home to 25.6 million people with HIV (WHO, 2016).
Zimbabwe is one of the African countries that continues to have a large amount of its population living with HIV, an estimated 13 million people. Due to access to antiretroviral treatment, the life expectancy in Zimbabwe has reached 61 years in 2015 compared to 41 years in 2003. In 2016, more than 49,000 deaths were averted comprising 393,000 prevented deaths since 2006.
“The one million antiretroviral treatment milestone has been a remarkable journey, thanks to the effective leadership of Government and the partnership with our development partners. We have managed to turn the tide in the fight against this killer disease by boosting the resilience of our health care system and ensuring that effective services are available to those most in need including people living with HIV.” - Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Brigadier General Dr Gerald Gwinji.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) played a vital role in supporting countries most affected by the HIV epidemic by providing access to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) resources. Most recently US $502 million have been approved to support HIV, tuberculosis and malaria programmes in Zimbabwe during the next three years.
There are around 1.5 million people living with HIV in Kenya, around 400 000 of whom are unaware that they have the virus. With low testing rates, especially among men, people are not able to benefit from treatment.
In May 2017, the Government of Kenya has launched two innovative technologies to address the situation and bring ending the AIDS epidemic: self-testing for HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an antiretroviral medicine, to prevent HIV infection.
The Be Self Sure campaign aimed to encourage people to get tested for HIV. As part of the campaign, the HIV self-test kits were made available through public and private health facilities and selected pharmacies.
“With the launch, Kenya becomes the first country to undertake a national roll-out of HIV self-testing and the second in Africa to bring to scale pre-exposure prophylaxis for prevention of HIV infection for those at high risk.” - Jackson Kioko, Director Of Medical Services, Ministry Of Health, Kenya
UNAIDS is working to prevent new HIV infections and to ensure that by 2020, 90% of Kenyans living with HIV know their status and 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment. By achieving these targets, Kenya will be able to end its AIDS epidemic by 2030.
In Paris, doctors have announced a new generation cancer drug which might be an antidote for those living with HIV. The study has found that the drug, nivolumab, was able to reduce the amount of dormant HIV cells in the body thus improving patient’s immune response.
While advances in medicine and technology are changing the course of life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS in Africa, many people continue to face significant barriers to accessing healthcare services, including stigma, lack of awareness and funding. Public awareness campaigns and measures to improve testing rates and encourage treatment need to continue in order to prevent the disease spreading further. Ending HIV/AIDFS needs social not just medical breakthroughs and the governments must strengthen the healthcare systems and mechanisms to ensure that everyone has access to required health services and medicine.
The Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF) is hosting the 3rd annual Aid & Development Africa Summit on 27-28 February 2018 in Nairobi to share latest innovations and best practice in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases in East Africa.
Expert speakers including Matthias Boyen, UAV Focal Point - HIV/AIDS Support Project Officer at UNICEF, Gary Jones, Security AIDS & Humanitarian Response Advisor at UNAIDS and Olawale Maiyegun, Director, Department of Social Affairs at African Union Commission will provide an update on regional health programmes and share ways to scale up HIV treatment and enable access to crucial health care services in the region.
To view the agenda and register your participation, please visit africa.aidforum.org