Did you know Southern and East Africa is the region with the highest HIV cases? This region is a home to 6.2% of the world’s population but over half of the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world (19.4 million people). In 2016, there were 790,000 new HIV infections, 43% of the global total.
South Africa alone accounts for one third of the new infection in the region in 2016. The other 50% occurred in Mozambique, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ethiopia. Almost 500,000 people died of AIDS related illness in the East and Southern Africa in 2016 although the number of deaths has fallen significantly from 760,000 in 2010.
Despite the continuing severity of the epidemic, huge strides have been made towards meeting the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. In 2016, 76% of people living with HIV were aware of their status, 79% of them were on treatment (equivalent to 60% of all people living with HIV in the region), and 83% of those on treatment had achieved viral suppression (equivalent to half of all people living with HIV in the region).
Between 2010 and 2016, new HIV infections declined by 56% among children (0-14 years) to 77,000. New infections among adults declined by 29% over the same period, although there is significant variation between countries. Declines were greatest in Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe. While in Ethiopia and Madagascar, the annual number of new infections increased.
Women account for 56% of adults living with HIV in the region. 6 Young women (aged 15–24 years) accounted for 26% of new HIV infections in 2016, despite making up just 10% of the population.
Although East and Southern Africa’s HIV epidemic is driven by sexual transmission and is generalized, meaning it affects the population as a whole, certain groups such as sex workers and men who have sex with men have significantly higher HIV prevalence rates.
A 2014 UNAIDS assessment of demographic and health surveys carried out in the region suggests young women face higher levels of spousal physical or sexual violence than women from other age groups.12. Again, this heightens HIV risk – for example, a South African study found young women who experienced intimate partner violence were 50% more likely to have HIV than young women who had not experienced violence.
In recent years, a number of countries in the region such as Botswana, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda have implemented national campaigns to encourage uptake of HIV testing and counselling (HTC). In 2016, 76% of people living with HIV had knowledge about their status – an improvement from 72% in 2015.