|A 2016 World AIDS Day billboard in Lusaka|
By Paul Shalala
Zambia’s HIV prevalence rate has dropped from 15.5% to 12.3%.
According to results of a joint survey by the United States and Zambian governments released three days ago, 12.3 percent of adults ages 15 to 59 are living with HIV and approximately 46,000 new cases of HIV occur every year.
The groundbreaking survey, the Zambia Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZAMPHIA), is a nationally representative, population-based HIV survey which was launched on November 27, 2015.
ZAMPHIA is led by Zambia's Ministry of Health with financial and technical assistance from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
According to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Lusaka, the survey measured the burden of HIV and the impact of Zambia’s HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.
“Over the course of six months in 2016, 12,130 randomly selected households from across Zambia were visited by ZAMPHIA field teams. The teams included nurses and interviewers. Men, women, and children of all ages could participate in the survey, regardless of HIV status,” reads the statement in part.
The survey found that of all persons living with HIV in Zambia, 59.8 percent are virally suppressed, meaning that the amount of HIV virus in an infected individual’s blood is below the threshold that would put them at greater risk for developing HIV-related disease and transmitting the virus to others.
It further found that among the 10 provinces, Eastern Province had the highest prevalence of suppressed HIV viral load at 67% while Northern Province had the lowest at 50%.
Among children, the survey found that 1.3% of them aged 0-14 are living with HIV across the country.
This is the first time that the prevalence rate for the pediatric is being quantified in Zambia.
Zambia is one of the first countries to implement this groundbreaking, detailed population-based HIV impact assessment (PHIA) survey.
According to the US government, the PHIA surveys will be implemented in at least 13 countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.
Since 2004, the US government, through PEPFAR, has contributed over $3 billion to the HIV fight in Zambia.
In 2017, the US and Zambian governments will launch the #TestAndStart project which is aimed at helping HIV positive individuals from further spreading the virus by adopting anti-retroviral guidelines recommended by the World Health Organisation.