July 15, 2016
Africa's progress in the fight against HIV/AIDSby Hilke Fischer
The South African city of Durban is the venue for the 2016 World Aids Conference. Sub-Saharan Africa will feature prominently on the agenda, a region where the infection rate has decreased by over 40 percent since 2000.
Which strategies are most effective in the battle against HIV/AIDS? DW looks at how four African countries are responding to the challenge.
Kenya: compulsory HIV/AIDS education
Fewer than six percent of Kenyans live with HIV/AIDS. That's about 1.5 million people. The number of new infections also fell significantly in recent years. In 2005, 28.3 percent of infected mothers transmitted the virus to their children. Five years later, that figure had gone down to 8.5 percent.
Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of all pregnant Kenyan women go for AIDS tests. In 2000, there were only three health facilities where Kenyans could consult medical practitioners and get tested for HIV. In 2010, the number of health facilities offering HIV consultations had increased to more than 4,000.
The main reason for the reduction in the HIV/AIDS prevalence in Kenya is the supply of ARVs. In 2003, only 6,000 people had access to the medication. Ten years later, that figure increased to more than 600,000.
The Kenyan government also regards voluntary male circumcision as a weapon in the fight against AIDS. This reduces the risk of infection among men by about 40 percent, according to studies. Since 2003, HIV/AIDS education has been a compulsory element in school curriculums. About 70 percent of the cost in fighting HIV/AIDS in Kenya is footed by external donors.
[Could it be that the education and the ARVs are entirely responsible for the reduction?]
Uganda: 'Abstinence, faithfulness and condoms'
In Uganda, the AIDS epidemic reached its peak in the 1990s. Approximately 18 percent of the population was infected with the virus. The Ugandan government and international aid agencies launched ambitious and expensive educational programs with the slogan "Abstinence, faithfulness and condoms."
The campaign was a success. In 2000, only five percent of the population was HIV-positive. But, in the meantime, a contrary trend is emerging. The number of new infections in Uganda is rising again for the first time in ten years. The HIV prevalence rate in the country is now about seven percent of the population.
Surprisingly, a major reason for this is the widespread usage of ARVs and the circumcision of men. Many Ugandans believe that the ARV therapy can cure the disease completely and that male circumcision rules out any risk of infection - as a result, more people are abandoning the use of condoms.
[This is NOT surprising - in fact we predicted it, years ago..]