Although the incidence of HIV in Zimbabwe is still among the highest in the world, the percentage of adults living with the virus has declined and the number of new infections has decreased over the past five years, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said today.
“Sexual behaviour change has accelerated these declines beyond what would have been expected given the natural dynamics of HIV infection. The changes in behaviour include increased condom use in non-regular partnerships, commencing in the mid-1990s, and reductions in rates of sexual partner change,” its report, entitled “Evidence for HIV Decline in Zimbabwe,” says.
A photo in the report shows an employee of a local non-governmental organization (NGO) called Family AIDS Caring Trust, Esta Zimombe, distributing free condoms near the market and bus station in the town of Mutare.
According to the review of epidemiological and behavioural data by a team that included research staff from Britain’s Imperial College, the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women declined from 26 per cent in 2002 to 21 per cent last year, and other data showed a similar trend.
UNAIDS cautions against allowing the decline to lead to complacency and says the challenge is to ensure that the downward trend is sustained. “Additional years of data are required before it can be established whether the decline in HIV prevalence is temporary, or would – in the absence of widespread treatment – be long-term,” the agency says.