HIV in Africa affects the entire world

HIV in Africa affects the entire world

Of the 38 million people living with HIV in the world, around 70% are in Africa. The characteristics of the epidemic in this continent are the product of factors that must be addressed to stop the spread of the virus.

It must be remembered that the member countries of the United Nations Organization (UN) committed to ending AIDS as a threat to public health by 2030, since it is clear that the tools, both preventive and treatment, already exist to achieve it.

However, as the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has pointed out, social inequalities are the main obstacle for the available tools to reach all populations in need.

Key populations

According to researcher Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Center for AIDS Research Program in South Africa, new HIV cases are concentrated mainly in two key populations: men who have sex with men, and women.

It should be said that, of the 69 countries that penalize sexual relations between people of the same sex, 27 are in Africa. Added to this is economic migration from this continent to Europe, where undocumented African gay or bisexual men do not have access to health services that could prevent or treat HIV infection.

Regarding women, Abdool Karim points out, in an article about the complex situation of HIV in Africa, that it is a population that has not been adequately attended to. In particular, young women experience a high risk of infection because society supports and promotes the pairing of young girls, even adolescents, with men who are eight to ten years their senior.

Challenges and solutions

For the researcher, tools such as the treatment that prevents HIV, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), will not be successful among young Africans because they “neither think about HIV” nor are they aware of their risk, so taking a preventative pill daily, or even getting an injection every two months that does the same job are not realistic options for them.

He points out that it is evident that new technologies are needed to protect young women from HIV, in addition to getting more young men to approach health services, get tested for the virus and, if necessary, receive the antiretroviral treatment to avoid transmitting it to their partners.

In order to find solutions to the challenges posed by the epidemic on the continent, the author highlights that three elements must be taken into account. The first is the awareness that human beings are interdependent, so that the risk of a single person affects all the others, as was seen in the COVID-19 pandemic. The responsibility, then, must be shared.

The second element is to mobilize resources so that at least the goals that were set for 2025 are achieved: that 95% of people with HIV are aware of their infection, that 95% of them receive antiretroviral treatment, and that 95% of people on treatment achieve an undetectable viral load (reduce the virus in their blood to a minimum).

Last but not least, it is necessary to improve prevention strategies, since antiretroviral treatment is not the only resource to achieve success. Condom use and PrEP for the most vulnerable groups are just two of the tools that should be promoted and strengthened.

At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we work every day to contribute to these HIV control goals, so that it ceases to be a public health problem. If you want to get a free screening test or need condoms, we have them here for free. Just come to our offices in your country or write to us by Whatsapp and make an appointment today.