Eastern and Southern Africa Remain Highly Affected by HIV

20 July 2018

Eastern and Southern Africa remain the regions most affected by the HIV epidemic, accounting for 45 percent of the world’s HIV infections and 53 percent of people living with HIV globally. This was revealed in the newly released Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS report titled, ‘Miles to go – closing gaps, breaking barriers, righting injustices.’ However, the report says there should be a responsibility between governments, civil society, international donors and the research community in delivering steep declines in HIV infections and AIDS-related mortality.

Gender inequalities and gender-based violence, combined with physiological factors, place women and girls in eastern and southern Africa at huge risk of HIV infection, according to the report. In ten countries in the region, laws and policies that require parental consent to access sexual and reproductive health services discourage adolescent girls from accessing the services they need to stay healthy. Namibia is among the seven countries in the region that do not require parental consent for adolescent girls to access sexual and reproductive health services. The other six countries are South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique.

In Lesotho, for example, adolescent girls need parental consent to access sexual and reproductive health services if they are younger than 14 years. In Botswana and Zimbabwe adolescents younger than 16 years need parental consent to access these services. “Removal of these requirements is needed, as is the rapid scale-up of intensive combination prevention programme packages, including elements that improve school attendance and empower young women to mitigate their own risk,” the report suggests.

The percentage of young people aged between 15 and 24 years who had correct and comprehensive knowledge about HIV in the region ranged from 65 percent to 23 percent. Major programmes to improve HIV prevention services for young people, especially adolescent girls and young women, are being rolled out with sponsorship from the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund, the report highlights.

“Greater integration of services for HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights, including for young people, is important for reducing HIV and other health risks,” the report emphasizes.

Read the full article online here.