The last 10 years have seen growing concern and participation of different organisations and stakeholders in the battle to reduce HIV infections and improve on the livelihood of infected persons while preventing more infections in the world over.
A consideration of the global economy shows that Africa and in particular the Eastern and Southern part are the worst hit by the HIV pandemic. As of 2016, the Eastern and Southern Africa reported 420,000 deaths related to HIV with over 790,000 new infections reported among the people.
There has been an overall decline in the cases of new HIV infections reported in COMESA in the last decade. This has been due to the increased efforts from world agencies and intervention of Non Governmental Organisations in an attempt to avert the pandemic. UNAIDS 90-90-90 program is one of those interventions aimed at averting the problem with the overall goal of achieving zero infections by the year 2030.
There were 320500 new infections of both children below 15 years and adults above 15 years in 2016. This accounted for 45% of the total new infections reported in the year 2016 in the Eastern and Southern Africa and 18% of the world new infections.
COMESA in 2016 had 285500 new infections of HIV among the adults aged 15 and above years representing 40% of the total infections in the Eastern and Southern Africa and 16% of the world new infections. Children below 15 years of age in COMESA accounted for 5% of the new infections in East and Southern Africa and 2% of the world new infections.
The high number of new infections among the adults was mainly in the categories of people like the sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and people involved in inter-generational sexual relationships. Cases of child infection in COMESA were mainly due to the forced early child marriages and transmission through birth.
Inspite of all these, different programs have been set up to avert the problem. Different programs in COMESA Member States that are aimed at reducing new infections include among many the following; The Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission in Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, The dreams program in Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, The ALL IN program, voluntary male Circumcision, Pre-exposure prophylaxis in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
In the population of adults aged 15 years and above living with HIV, Malawi, Eritrea, Kenya, DR Congo and Ethiopia had over 60% women living with HIV. HIV prevalence among both males and females aged between 15 and 24 has been declining with a high prevalence among females compared to the males. In 2016, females had a prevalence of 3.8% against 1.9% of the males.
Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe had the highest prevalence of HIV among the people aged between 15 and 49 years with Swaziland having 27.2%, Zimbabwe with 13.5% and Zambia with 12.4%.
The battle against wide spread infection of HIV is faced by numerous challenges ranging from socio economic to cultural and political including religious restrictions. Some of the challenges faced in an attempt to reduce the spread of the infections include; Stigmatization and discrimination of the already infected persons, criminalisation of HIV infections that undermine the will to openly fight the problem, Limited funds available for carrying out related activities to the fight against HIV.