Findings Show Significant Progress Against HIV Epidemic In Africa

By Newsroom America Staff at 2 Dec 2016

(Newsroom America) -- National surveys in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia reveal exceptional progress against HIV, with decreasing rates of new infection, stable numbers of people living with HIV, and more than half of all those living with HIV showing viral suppression through use of antiretroviral medication.

For those on antiretroviral medication, viral suppression is close to 90 percent. Thirty-five years into the global HIV epidemic, these findings are a clear sign of progress and source of hope for the rest of the world.

These data are the first to emerge from the Population HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) Project, a unique, multi-country initiative funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

The Project deploys household surveys, which measure the reach and impact of HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in select countries. ICAP at Columbia University is implementing the PHIA Project in close collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in partnership with ministries of health.

Importantly, the data positively demonstrate that the 90-90-90 global targets set forth by UNAIDS in 2014 are attainable, even in some of the poorest countries in the world.

According to these ambitious targets for 2020, the goal is for 90 percent of people with HIV to be diagnosed, 90 percent of those diagnosed to receive HIV treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment to be effectively treated and achieve suppression of their infection.

This would translate to 73 percent of all HIV-positive people being virally suppressed. The data show that once diagnosed, individuals are accessing treatment, staying on treatment, and their viral load levels are suppressed to levels that maintain their health and dramatically decrease transmission to others.

"The effects of HIV have been far-reaching. But these outcomes affirm that global, country, and U.S.-supported HIV efforts have been successful to date, and that strong progress is being made across the entire HIV continuum of care, including excellent durability of first line treatment regimens with high adherence to medications," said Ambassador Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.

The household surveys of approximately 80,000 adults and children in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia were conducted in 2016. Results show that the rate of new infections is less than one percent per year.

HIV prevalence, at 10 to 14 percent, is similar to 2010 estimates, and more than half of all adults living with HIV have viral load suppression.

Compared to 2003 incidence estimates for the same three countries of between 1.3 and 1.5 percent per year, the current rate of new HIV infections has been cut in half during the past 13 years, when effective HIV treatment became available in sub-Saharan Africa largely through support from PEPFAR.

"The survey was designed to identify the rate of new infections at the national level, as well as to estimate the number of people living with HIV," said Dr. Jessica Justman, PHIA principal investigator and senior technical director at ICAP. "This information is critically important to determining future resource needs."

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