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New cases drop, but numbers still high
Africa made good progress in meeting Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6, which called for halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, achieving universal access to treatment for the virus and stopping and reversing incidences of malaria and tuberculosis by 2015.
The 2015 Africa Progress Report, released by the Africa Progress Panel that advocates for the sustainable development of Africa, stated that by adopting the World Health Organization’s recommended interventions such as the promotion of condom use and the widespread availability of antiretroviral medication for HIV/AIDS patients, African countries managed to contain the rate of transmission.
New HIV infections declined on the continent by 40%, from 1.8 million people to 1.1 million, between 2005 and 2013, according to the APR report. Rwanda, in particular, made impressive gains, with AIDS-related deaths declining by 76%, while Eritrea and Kenya followed closely at 67%. However, Angola and Uganda did not make as much progress as the other countries, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Progress was also seen in the drop in new HIV infections per year in the 15-49 years age bracket, which was reduced by more than half in Southern, West and Central Africa. In East Africa it was reduced by 46%, while the number remained unchanged at 0.1% in North Africa.
In spite of such progress, Africa accounts for an overwhelming 71% of the virus globally, with South Africa having the highest number of cases (6.3 million) followed by Nigeria (3.2 million), according to UNAIDS.
On malaria, there has been a 54% reduction in deaths since 2000, according to a 2013 WHO report. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets and artemisinin-based malaria therapy contributed to a decline in cases.
Even so, about 90% of all malaria fatalities in the world still occur in Africa, states WHO. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to half the malaria cases worldwide, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria accounting for a staggering 34% and 39% respectively of all malaria deaths. A lack of effective anti-malaria policies and populations impacted by conflicts impedes progress on the malaria front.
North African countries, including Morocco and Egypt, eliminated malaria even before the MDGs came into force. Cape Verde and Algeria have reached pre-elimination and elimination stages, respectively. Botswana, Eritrea, Namibia Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa and Swaziland reduced malaria rates by more than 75%.
On tuberculosis, although cases have decreased in sub-Saharan Africa to between 15% and 26% in countries such as Central African Republic, Egypt, Eritrea and Ghana through treatments such as the Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS), new incidences of the disease are up by 14% in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho and Liberia, among others. WHO has concluded that this could be due to strains of tuberculosis becoming increasingly drug-resistant.
Experts point out that countries facing security challenges may be less likely to commit resources to health issues than countries which are not.
Nevertheless, all African countries have signed off on the just-launched global Sustainable Development Goals, which means that the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases will continue.